Will feminine principles rule the future? John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio posit this in their book, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, and I like to think they are right. More than like to think it, I am actively inviting it, through the work I do and the way I do it – collaboratively, with others doing good work in the world using the practices and patterns of the Art of Hosting Conversations That Matter. This doesn’t mean I think masculine principles are bad, just that they are overused and a rebalancing of the energies could spark the next evolution of leadership and power in life, work, play and community.
We are living now in the space between narratives as my friend and frequent co-host Jerry Nagel likes to say. The old story of power and control, described as masculine attributes, that many of us around the world are reportedly dissatisfied with is the story that has been operational for centuries now. The new story of consensus building, collaboration and co-creation, described as feminine attributes, is what many are longing for, even when they do not have the words to articulate it. People I encounter in the work I do and the places I travel want to show up and be seen as full human beings rather than as the distinct parts that are “acceptable” in different circumstances – logic and rationality at work, nurturing and caring in private. When we are invited as full human beings a new essence of aliveness and creativity also shows up.
The characteristics we are yearning for now are exactly the characteristics that have been dismissed and squelched as not being effective, as too soft, as the antithesis of leadership; the characteristics of feminine principles.
The principles of masculine and feminine are being confused with gender, feminine principles have been diminished and, by extension, women have been too. Women wanting to be successful in business and politics in the past have had to become more like men in the drive for power and authority. Even Cheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In is really asking women to to step up to their male colleagues in the way of the old narrative. I love that her book is sparking conversation in many places about masculine and feminine principles, and I love that she is successful as a powerful woman leader.
What does it take to shift to a new narrative about women, leadership and power? It is hard to shift to new narratives. The grip of the old story is engrained in us in ways we do not even know. Even as we step into doing things differently, the pull of the old narrative, embedded in culture which is designed to perpetuate itself, is strong. It takes intentionality, vulnerability and the willingness to be in good inquiry and co-learning with each other. It takes a re-valuing of the feminine in all that it has to offer and a new understanding of what it means to be powerful. It takes the willingness to let go of control to step into patterns and practices that invite the best of our thinking, leadership and accountability to show up, the spaces were emergence lives.
It takes men embracing principles of the feminine and it takes women seeing and stepping into the strength of these principles in ways that show how powerfully they can shift the shape of the narrative we are living into now. It means bringing for the best of the masculine principles into this rebalancing dynamic and acting with curiosity, generosity and compassion.
This inquiry is one I am excited to be exploring at a one day forum in San Francisco on June 7, 2013, which is an invitation to be in a deep dialogue together with other women about women and power, the next evolution of leadership. There we will be exploring questions like:
1) What is the new definition of success we need to create so women can truly thrive in their personal and professional lives?
2) How do we gain the confidence and courage we need to express ourselves more authentically as professional women?
3) How do we more fully step into our leadership to vision and co-create new, more powerful systems and patterns in the worlds we live and work in?
4) What are the feminine qualities, when we as women express them more fully, make us more powerful leaders?
5) What becomes possible when we as women elevate each other and what is required to support or grow this over time?
6) What is the desired impact we want to have in our organizations and in the world?
7) What are the prejudices and stereotypes women hold which, if they shifted, would create better opportunities for women to thrive?
I am curious to see what will emerge from the inquiry and how we might set in motion, or accelerate what is already in motion, supportive leadership practices that invite the best of who we are as human beings to show up, individually and collectively.