Redefining Femininity in Leadership

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When I first learned about masculine and feminine energy, I was fascinated and found the concept enlightening, the knowledge liberating.

Contrary to what I first thought, to feel feminine I didn’t need to wear flowing purple skirts and flowers in my hair. Nothing against skirts and flowers, but they just weren’t me.

As I went deeper, I began to understand how to integrate the feminine and masculine flavours within me. I learned I could flow (feminine) and direct my drive and determination (masculine). I could surrender to a new softness (feminine) without giving up my laser focus (masculine).

As this distinction of feminine energy unfolded for me further, I realised how much I’d been limiting myself and working hard to overcompensate for innate qualities I wasn’t tapping into.

When I talk about femininity and masculinity in leadership, there’s a risk of defining ourselves by one or other end of the continuum. However if we hold the learning lightly and relate to it as a lens to look through, or a range to explore, this framework can be extremely useful in helping to understand ourselves and our professional and personal relationships in new ways.

Within all of us, women and men, there is a complex web of feminine and masculine energies. Further, there are healthy and unhealthy versions of both.

Healthy feminine energy might look like the expression of creativity, being light and playful. The unhealthy version can be demanding and needy.
 Healthy masculine energy is decisive and focused on the outcome, while in it’s unhealthy state can become controlling and rigid.

This is a simplistic portrayal of what is truly rich and complex, but it begins to give you a sense of the contrast.

Where I believe we are missing our greatest opportunity in leading others is in deepening our relationship with our healthy feminine. This part of us, both within women and men, is innately intuitive, it is how we create connection easily, it is sensitive and listens fully. Our healthy feminine energy is flexible and adaptable, feeling into what’s needed in any moment with empathy and compassion. It can be soft in it’s sensitivity, and it can also be ferocious in it’s passion.

Learning to integrate our healthy feminine, while also shifting into our healthy masculine, supports women to evolve with clarity, expand inner confidence, establish boundaries and build self-trust.

In my 30’s I lived in my unhealthy masculine during the week, pushing, striving, trying to control outcomes. I worked long hours, lived fully in my IQ, and was unrelenting in my mission to perform and achieve.

At night and on the weekends I needed a release and fell into my unhealthy feminine. It would show up as needing attention or staying aloof. I was over-sensitive to what my partner would say or do (or wouldn’t say and wouldn’t do!). At the time I did not have the masculine/feminine distinctions…from my perspective I was constantly giving to everyone and not receiving what I needed in return. The result was physical exhaustion and emotional burnout. I was done and I had no answers and no mentors to show me another way.

It continues to be very rare to experience a woman embodying her healthy feminine and healthy masculine in our global leadership arenas. Many women continue to experience their workplace as somewhere they feel they need to lead like a man. 

But this is only because we aren’t aware and haven’t yet learned how to harness the power and influence of our healthy feminine. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister, is a clear example of the healthy integration of masculine and feminine energy, notably recently in how she is responding to the horrific events in Christchurch.

With unrelenting commitment to the vision she holds for her country, clarity of intention and action, and deep and real connection with those directly impacted, she is leading her people through shock, pain and confusion. She is keeping her heart open, while remaining focused on what needs to be done. And she is winning the world over.

Look back at Jacinda’s journey and you’ll discover a woman who speaks as much about kindness as she does about policy.

Understanding the innate gifts of our healthy feminine and masculine, and learning how to integrate them enables us to develop an emotional intelligence we are otherwise forgoing. 

Without it we can remain stuck in long-lived patterns of perfectionism, seeking our worthiness from external achievements, needing approval from others and passive-aggressive behaviour that stems from resentment.

There is much to explore and discover in this fascinating dance of feminine and masculine, if we dare.

– As a beginning practice, you may like to notice when, where and with whom you are living, leading and loving from your masculine and feminine – and your healthy or unhealthy version of each.

– How does it feel and how does it shape your communication, connection and contribution in your relationships and your goals and visions for yourself and those around you.

There are infinite forms, flavours and flows of feminine energy. Some of us love purple skirts and some of us, like me, call grey their favourite colour. Being feminine has nothing to do with what we look like, what we wear, the tone of our voice or our profession of choice.

Embodying femininity is an individual journey, an inside-out job, beginning with reconnecting with the power within our hearts and reigniting the wisdom within our bodies.

A woman who consciously chooses to learn how to embody her healthy feminine and masculine energies discovers her greatest source of influence comes from within.

REAL WOMEN: BOLD LEADERSHIP 
ENGAGING HEALTHY ENERGIES TO LEAD, LIVE AND LOVE

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The content within this diagram is credited to one of my mentors and dear friends, Martina Hughes, whose work has been a catalyst in my awakening as a conscious woman.