It isn’t easy being a steward of the feminine in business.
While we can make a powerful case for the patriarchy and outright discrimination being the primary reason that it’s still to this day difficult for a woman to get ahead (and stay ahead) in business, I believe the deeper answer to “why?” is a matter of nature.
Here’s what I mean.
The feminine principle in business is closer to nature than machine. Like every organic being demonstrates here on earth, the feminine principle invites both growth… and death. Surrender. Destruction. Letting go.
In equal parts, she prioritizes increasing… and decreasing. Expansion… and contraction. Filling… and emptying.
When we are truly surrendered to lead in this way, we recognize times for slowing down. For pause. For un-creation. For not fishing the fish in the river right now.
And the stronger our commitment… the stronger it CAN create tension with the business bottom line.
The clearer it becomes that it’s time for us to make these types of tough decisions, the more courageous we are asked to be. And the more vividly the practice of faith (the kind of faith a caterpillar has when it weaves its cocoon) comes into play.
And when THAT happens?
Sometimes it’s: “Thanks – and we’ll see you later.”
Forgive me for being dramatic here. Thankfully, it’s not how it happens every time. Fortunately, there are some organizations and existing structures that have already evolved enough to see the benefit in
- multiple bottom lines
- true alignment over blind and mis-aligned rapid growth
- honoring the needs of people not just profit
- the power of the cycle of creation
But I’ve been on the receiving end of these decisions enough times recently to see with my own eyes and feel in my own body the immense power of our collective inertia to change.
And it’s taken me YEARS to fully accept that I’m not actually doing something wrong.
In fact, I’m actually doing something right – in the new paradigm.
We’re just not quite there yet.
What do I mean? There’s a period of transition (that can take months, but more likely years) where the system hasn’t yet caught up to understanding or tolerating this new (and more ancient) kind of leadership. During this time, it’s as though an immune response rejects it – either partly or entirely – like a foreign invader trying to “take away” something good we had going for us… even when the cost of change is not dire.
At least three times in the past few months I’ve been ‘thanked’ for this type of feminine approach to leadership by being taken off of teams and work assignments that were going well.
In all three cases the metrics demonstrated success: high reviewer scores, nobody quitting or storming off upset, positive changes in lives, re-enrollment or enrollment in next-level programs, outcomes in the direction of our goals.
How did we succeed? I leveraged my feminine superpowers.
- I stepped back and made space for others
- I listened deeply and stopped focusing on the curriculum as written
- I shared airtime and let the people talk more than teach
- I held space for creative and unexpected solutions, including those that were riskier and more honest than the status quo
- I declined to take on work that wasn’t mine to do, and created space for up and coming leaders to practice taking the lead
- I acknowledged the end of an era and through action and words stopped trying to push a culture that was ready to die
- I uplifted diversity not just optically, but in practice in my decisions and actions
- I allowed appropriate completions to happen
In one of the cases, we did also experienced some attrition in parallel to this work, but it was stated to be in spite of (vs as a result of) the work we were doing together.
In all three cases, it was a delicate dance that asked me to be deeply present, stretch my heart and mind, speak uncomfortable truths, give and ask for support, constantly challenge my ego, risk, grapple, cry, rage, accept and love. Each challenged my faith. Each was truly rewarding.
By most accounts in business, you would expect the results to warrant a promotion.Instead, I was ‘thanked’ and the organizations moved on.
- Because that felt like enough progress for now?
- Because it’s hard to attribute the influence of power that’s designed to be invisible?
- Because if the feminine was really allowed to keep leading, something more would really have to change?
Truth be told, I believe there are a whole lot of reasons why this happens.
Being a steward of the feminine in leadership means a deep “blend” (as we say in somatics) – a surrender to and partnership with what already is, in addition to a strong and visible lead.
It can be hard to recognize. How do you “see” someone as a leader, when it looks like they’re “just”:
- Letting go of things?
How do you understand the moves they are making to be essential to the health, and growth, of the organization – ESPECIALLY when nobody else is willing to make these kinds of moves?
She’s going to kill us. Right??
But maybe that’s actually the only way for us to: Evolve. Grow. Innovate. Heal.
It’s not rocket science. But it’s SO counterintuitive. It’s so against our training – especially for those of us who grew up working in corporate or political structures based on capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy.
Every fiber in our bodies has learned to mis-trust that this type of leadership will “produce bottom line results” – especially when we’re still in the messy middle… but sometimes even when we see them in black and white.
For years I’ve reflected on the parables and prophecies of the women elders across cultures and races who “hid their medicine bundles” during the times of their colonization – so that the frequencies of this feminine power would survive a time when they could not, and would not, be tolerated… so that they could be resurfaced again.
These women understood that their way would be misunderstood.
They chose to hide it, so that we wouldn’t lose it.
But it’s changing now.
This week, I’m heading on a journey to sit with the female tribal elders in the Amazon in Ecuador (more on this soon). It’s the first time the women in communities are open to spending time with white women.
I believe that there is something for us all to learn – together – about the delicate nature of this ‘in between’ time, where the force of the feminine is so deeply needed and ALSO so deeply mistrusted in our societies.
If any of this speaks to you, let me know – or just stay tuned.I look forward to taking you on these journeys with me.
With strength, peace and inspiration,