Optimised Leadership: Liberating and Embracing Feminine Energy

Dr Kendi Guantai
Senior Teaching Fellow and Vice-Chair of the Chartered Association of Business School's Race Equality Working Group

Most discussions about leadership from antiquity through to the 1980s focused on men, with little consideration of women as leaders or gender and leadership.

Over the past forty years there has been a wider discussion about gendered traits and gender expectations on traits that are ingrained in society, with the assumption that those displaying more ‘masculine’ traits or energy are likely to see themselves in leadership positions.

It’s important to note that these gender stereotypes are only tendencies, and do not manifest themselves within all people across all groups and situations. When considering feminine and masculine energies or attributes, we are not talking about gender identity.

Indeed, as some argue – all humans possess varying degrees of masculine and feminine energy within. We acknowledge the usefulness of masculine energy in progressing human evolution but question the impact of its dominance at the almost near exclusion of feminine energy.

To optimise leadership effectiveness is it time for all of us to liberate and embrace feminine energy as well, to create a world of gender equality where we use feminine capital to empower ourselves and the rest of the world?

Let’s consider the reality programme ‘The Apprentice’. Here, we are often presented with candidates whose embodiment of masculine energy gets them noticed and rewarded.

Feminine energy is often suppressed and considered a form of weakness. Winning is what matters… at any cost. So how does this show up in the spaces where we work and do business?

A balancing act

I found some insights in Michele Mees’s book, ‘The Balanced Leader: Exploring the Dynamics of Masculine and Feminine Energy’. Here, she argues that in her research, she found a dominance of masculine qualities in over 80% of organisations surveyed, with feminine qualities missing in 70% of them.

By masculine qualities, she suggests attributes such as objective analysis, linear thinking, a structured approach to work and problems, favouring order, rules and regulations, as well as dominance of what she calls ‘warrior energy’.

Feminine energy on the other hand, favours connections, acceptance, a holistic approach to problem-solving, drawing insights from experience, intuition and feelings, as well as change and transformation with a focus on growth and development.

In his work on ‘Invoking the Great Feminine for Conscious Evolution and Leadership’, Deepak Chopra acknowledges the invaluable contribution of behaviours associated with masculinity to developments in science, technology, financial systems etc, but also sees this same energy as being largely responsible for thrusting our world into what we experience as a state of imbalance, uncertainty and injustice.

We live at a time in history when there have been more wars fought in our backyards and our boardrooms than ever before.

"Feminine energy on the other hand, favours connections, acceptance, a holistic approach to problem-solving, drawing insights from experience, intuition and feelings, as well as change and transformation with a focus on growth and development."

So, is it time for us to consider the rise of the feminine as a Panacea for that which plagues our workplaces and the world in general? Well, there seems to be a growing awareness of the value of feminine energy in leadership, but the challenge for us lies in learning how to lead and work from this energy.

In other words, how can we embrace an energy that is often associated with weakness? How can we effectively channel this very energy to grow strong, sustainable ecosystems in our work and living spaces, as humanity moves into what Chopra calls the ‘Age of Consciousness’?

Although in speaking of feminine energy we strive to step away from a gendered approach to the topic, it is fair to say that women, often seen as the natural embodiment of feminine energy, have the opportunity to drive this change. That is not to say that we should exclude men and other gender identities from this conversation.

On the contrary, Rebecca Lively, a Strategy and Leadership Coach declares that “…we must also support men in tapping into their feminine energy and recognising and respecting the value those traits can bring to an organisation.” This is particularly critical as leadership positions are still dominated by men globally. There may also be a reluctance for leaders to exhibit feminine qualities in the workplace, as femininity must be shed at the door for acceptance and success to be granted. This leads to inauthenticity, which can lead to disengagement and struggles with mental health.

Evolution

An example of how the leadership landscape is evolving is the growing attention given to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) as well as sustainability practices in both the private and public sectors. At Leeds University Business School, there is a bold and concerted effort by the leadership, to support the career progression of women and create a more inclusive and supportive culture in the workplace.

In recognition of progress made, the Business School now holds the prestigious Athena Swan Bronze Award, obtained in May 2020. There is also a growing body of collaborative work on sustainability, net-zero and the green economy in the School and across the University, with the adoption and promotion of more sustainable practices.

I leave you with this to ponder: As this new age of consciousness dawns on us, is it time, (however we may identify our gender), for us to invoke the Great Feminine for conscious evolution and leadership?

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Dr Kendi Guantai is a Senior Teaching Fellow with expertise in Corporate Communication Strategy; Public Relations; Reputation Management; Crisis Communication; Issues Management; Public Sector communication. Visit Dr Guantai's profile