The Feminine Dimensions Of Leadership

Laurie Riihimaki

Since women have entered the business world, they have had to deal with negative connotations attached to their roles based on their gender. Although some of this is external bias, such as the gender pay-gap, other factors stem internally from the woman, herself. The internal factors women burden themselves with are closely related to the society in which we live and the societal messages we have been soaking up since birth.

Women, in general, feel less confident in male-dominated environments, which are more common than not in the world of business. In particular, the areas of finance and tech are extremely male-heavy. The gap between men and women in these fields is partly due to occupational sorting. Men primarily lean toward jobs that are higher-paying, while women base their career choices on other factors as well.

And even in businesses that are not highly focused on tech and finance, women are not as apt to pursue superior roles in their company because of stereotypes they innately carry. Women also have a tendency to disregard positive feedback about their work and refrain from participating in male-led discussions.

Unfortunately, since the dawn of time, women have been seen and portrayed by society as sexual objects, ‘gentle’ beings, and unintelligent thinkers. And even more deplorable, is that these beliefs about women seamlessly transitioned into the world of business, thus damaging a women’s leadership career before it even starts.

But, we can’t forget about the men. Men have had their fair share of stereotyping too. Men are often perceived in the world of business as being the ‘aggressors.’ Men who are confident and assertive make an impression on those around them and because of that they are seen as the leaders who ‘get things done.’ However, like the case with women, this is not always true. Stereotypes pigeonhole leaders. But, it’s important to remember that every individual is different and that it takes both feminine and masculine traits to successfully lead a team.

Does Leadership Have A Gender?

Leadership is not a gender-based role. There are many successful, brave, and notable leaders in both the male and female genders. From Michelle Obama to Nelson Mandela to Michael Bloomberg to Malala Yousafzai to the power couple Melinda and Bill Gates, effective leaders come in all shapes and sizes. In order to be a fully-rounded leader, an individual must incorporate both feminine and masculine dimensions into their positions of authority.

The journey to becoming a conscious leader is not an easy journey. The dynamic transformation to a successful and authentic leader is full of challenges. An individual must learn to face their deepest fears and let go of their old ways in order to find their power.

In order to begin this transformation and find your gift of leadership, you must look at four different elements: Presence, wholeness, flexibility, and congruence. These four key pieces of the feminine dimension of leadership will aid you in aligning yourself with your goals in order to reach your highest success and potential as a leader.

Presence

The importance of presence is undeniable in any aspect of life. In business, especially, the presence of men has always been dominant. This is why it is vital for women to tap into their masculine sides in order to lead a team effectively. A leader should be able to draw on both their masculine and feminine qualities to develop a leadership style that works for them and their team.

Increasing executive presence is key. Executive presence is how you are perceived from your team’s point of view and it is also how you see yourself as a leader.  To increase your executive presence, you must step back from your ego and present yourself vulnerably to the position and to your team. To help you get started on adopting a more effective executive presence, here are six simple tips:

  1. Focus – Your attention should always be focused. Be mindful of everything you are doing as a leader. You should always be aware of your body, as well as the external environment around you.
  2. Body Language – Use body language to show dominance. Sit tall and walk tall. When you are more poised and walk with purpose, people will automatically respect you more and see you as a leader inside and out.
  3. Reflection – Reflect on your habits and identity to see where changes need to be made. Use this as a tool to be your authentic self, as well as a superior leader.
  4. Support – Be open about working on your executive presence. By practicing vulnerability, not only will you gain the trust of your team, but you will also gain confidence.
  5. Connect – Practice captivating public speaking so that you can positively influence your team.
  6. Calm – When you are calm, you gain presence. Be sure to be mindful of your breaths. A calm and focused leader is a leader who will easily gain respect.

By following these simple tips, you will gain confidence and presence as a leader. But, there are other aspects besides internal and external presence that need focus too.

Wholeness

Psychological wholeness is another element of an effective leader. An individual must be able to tap into all the different parts of themselves in order to lead efficiently. In other words, their leadership should embody a universally conscious being that draws on strengths from each counterpart.

As we touched on previously, leaders should be both masculine and feminine. Masculine strengths include assertiveness, confidence, competitiveness, and decisiveness. While qualities associated with women include patience, empathy, vulnerability, kindness, sensitivity, and trustworthiness. It is clear to see that a well-rounded leader must embody all of these qualities. If a leader was confident but not trustworthy, they would not be well-respected. Or on the other hand, if a leader was patient and kind but not decisive, they would not be taken seriously. Both feminine and masculine qualities have a place in leadership.

Likewise, a leader should also embody both parent and child energy. Leaders must be able to discipline, make decisions, and carry out duties like a parent. This will result in respect from their team. However, leaders should not forget the childish aspects of their personality that also help to build effective leadership practices. Like children, leaders should be curious, playful, and eager to learn. This will lead to innovative ideas, personal and career development, and creative problem-solving.

Flexibility

Leaders must remain flexible in their leadership. This directly relates to psychological wholeness, as leaders must be able to quickly switch between masculine and feminine qualities depending on the situation at hand.

Leaders should have the ability to break free from their typical everyday style when necessary. A variation in styles helps to employ a leader’s abilities and strengths, creating a well-balanced and cohesive style of leadership. Depending on the situation, different leadership styles should be activated. For example, a democratic style of leadership might work for the average workday, but when a crisis appears it might be best to switch into a command style of leadership in order to take charge and prevent further damage.

Flexibility also helps leaders to be accepting of unexpected consequences, unpredictable events, and uncertainty, which is an inevitability in all leadership roles. This is because leaders are decision-makers. And not every decision comes with a secured road-mapped destination. More often than not, leaders practice risk-taking which results in unclear outcomes. However, by remaining flexible, leaders will be able to switch between styles to effectively deal with whatever comes their way.

Leaders should always be learning and to do that, they must be flexible. A leader must be willing to step back and observe in order to determine what’s working and what’s not in terms of productivity, staffing, communication, and other various components of the workplace. When learning and adapting to new knowledge, you must be flexible by waiving pre-existing behavioral habits and actions, if they are interfering, in order to welcome in changes.

Congruence

In order to tie all of these elements together with a bow, you need to know your purpose, focus, and goal. That’s where congruence comes in. Congruence is what holds all of your leadership skills together and makes what you’re doing actually worth it.

Everything, in regards to your leadership, should be coherent. Your presence, wholeness, and flexibility should all live in harmony. Congruence is what separates the good leaders from the great leaders. When a leader puts their values into action, that is when they have reached a state of congruence.

So, how do you become a congruent leader? The first step is answering some questions which will lead you from value to action:

  1. What do you want?
  2. Why do you do what you do?
  3. What experiences have shaped the person that you are?
  4. How do you, as a person, make things better?
  5. Where do you go from here?

By determining how you want to be perceived as a leader, what your personal mission is, the lessons you have learned and that have shaped you, how you offer value, and what your next step is, you will be able to start leading as a congruent well-balanced and whole leader.

FAQ:

  • Does Leadership Have A Gender?

Leadership does not have a gender. To be a good leader, you must employ both masculine and feminine traits.

  • What Are the Four Key Elements of Leadership?

The four key elements of leadership are presence, wholeness, flexibility, and congruence.

  • What Is Presence?

Presence is the way you are perceived and the way you perceive yourself as a leader. Presence has to do with both internal and external qualities.

  • What Is Wholeness?

Wholeness, in regards to leadership, is being able to embody both masculine and feminine qualities, as well as other ‘roles’ such as parent and child.

  • What Is Flexibility?

Flexibility is key to leadership. It allows leaders to adapt their styles in different situations. It also helps them to learn and deal with unexpected consequences and unpredictable happenings.

  • What Is Congruence?

Congruence is what ties all of the elements together. It is when a leader puts their values into action.

 

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