by Dennis Roberts
“… spiritually the female will now have her turn to lead mankind into the New Light. And eventually, this female spiritual light will permeate the entire range of human experience from female leaders in business and religion to female leaders of state ... this female light will become so strong as to become obvious to all who live on this dear planet and will continue to grow for thousands of years.”
“The Serpent of Light” by Drunvalo Melchizedek
Is this uprising, women as a gender, or femininity as energy? If the former, then those women who have won positions of power by amplifying their masculine will continue the masculine archetypal game. If, on the other hand, the essence of this is the rise of the feminine energy then that has the potential to change how the game of business is played, and to change the very game itself. And that is what I am exploring.
The ancient Chinese viewed things in relationship with nature and the environment, everything studied formed part of a holistic perspective. No single element existed in isolation. There was perfect symmetry in the dualistic nature of night and day, water and fire, active and passive, masculine and feminine.
Taoist theory of yin and yang helped explain all things and their inter-relationships. All things had yin and yang properties. Yang is associated with outward movement, active, projection, brightness, excitement. Yin is associated with inward, rest, darkness, passive, nourishment.
How is business played under the masculine archetype of leadership?
Masculine (Yang) energy plays out in business as a bias for action, making things happen, setting goals, measuring results, hitting targets. Metaphors of war abound in both business and sport. Competition is fierce, targets are hit, takeovers are hostile, companies are taken over, market share is won/lost, customers are targeted, plans are executed, patches are carved up, products are launched, staff are boned, people are fired.
Sun Tzu’s classic, “The Art of War”, widely linked competitive theory with ancient Chinese military strategy. Some suggest such military, authoritarian styles of leadership have a time and a place, especially during times of crisis and war. Perhaps so.
The natural state of play is for masculine and feminine energies to co-exist in equilibrium. What Drunvalo was alluding to was the rising up of feminine energy to restore the equilibrium from hundreds of years of dominant masculine energy.
Leading business mind, Warren Bennis writes, “We are facing unprecedented times of growing complexity, globalisation and rapid change, the likes of which we have not seen before ... what is needed is not a map, but a compass for this is unchartered territory.”
Furthermore, Heifetz suggests that amid such flux and uncertainty one of the qualities needed in leadership is an ability to “live in the disequilibrium.” If masculine (Yang) energy is about DOing then feminine (Yin) energy is about BEing. Our leaders need to embrace more of this Yin energy, remaining present in the disequilibrium, and seeking out and listening intently to the diverse opinion in our ranks. The key is to resist trying to solve the problem and allow creative tension to bring resolution of its own accord. It may appear counter intuitive but as Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it” and most definitely we need different ways of operating to deal with these new challenges.
The Rise of the Feminine – what it means for business and leadership
If “The Art of War” was the masculine archetypal guide to strategy then “Blue Ocean Strategy” now illustrates how The Rise of the Feminine has permeated business schools. Rather than using metaphors of war, the discussion centres around charting fresh territory, creating uncluttered niche markets, inventing and reinventing brands, strategies and ideas, collaborating rather than competing, seeking synergies, delivering superior customer value, and engaging and empowering employees in meaningful work in which their creative minds find stimulation.
The liberation of creative right brain thinking is much needed, even in a legal and regulatory environment where compliance is more the order of the day than creativity. Compliance activities are prime fodder for automation and/or outsourcing. The real value add of a professional services firm is around creative thinking.
Technological advances and the increased globalisation it facilitates means that decisions need to be made in real time. Heifetz draws a distinction between authority and leadership stating that leadership is an improvisational art. It is a verb, not a noun. Warren Bennis chimes in to suggest “many CEO’s are bosses not leaders.” The act of leadership can and does occur at grass roots levels.
A major challenge in the professional services environment is how effectively you encourage risk taking and mistake making. Is it something you discourage, merely tolerate or actively encourage. Businesses are de-risked but employees must take calculated risks and have supporting organisational frameworks that encourage then to do so.
Traditional patriarchal models of leadership serve to reinforce the power base of the authority figures that created them. Leadership is not something that can be delegated. Authority is delegated but leadership is demonstrated by anyone with a heartfelt conviction in a cause. What the model needs is less authority and more people empowered to lead. It is not about delegation, it is about empowerment.
The game is changing, how to get with the program?
Here’s a quick snapshot of how you can change your firm to embrace The Rise of the Feminine:
What got you here, won’t get you there
Marshall Goldsmith suggests that the higher up the corporate ladder you rise the more performance issues and developmental opportunities are behavioural. And for the ever busy professional it’s not simply a question of choosing what to do but moreso a question of what to STOP doing. The Rise of Feminine evokes a different more expansive way of thinking creatively. It is less about efficiency and more about effectiveness. It requires a different level of thinking to flourish in the new game. Stop, pause and reflect about behaviours such as winning too much, replaying past victories (over and over), not listening, seeing the glass half empty, finding the objection first, withholding information or opinion.
Permission to fail
In a professional services environment we are not used to failure, and certainly not used to it being encouraged let alone condoned. Like them or not, issues around approval seeking are common within professionals services. There is no stigma, we are all human and we all feel pain. It is just that our business and leaders seldom acknowledge our humaness. Create little risk taking experiments where staff can take managed risks. It is common in the creative powerhouses of Apple and Google but rare in professional services. If you operate with a compliance mindset then technology and outsourcing will pass you by.
Resistance to change
People don’t resist change per se, they resist loss. When change involves real or perceived loss, people will hold onto what they have and resist change. The key to leadership is to assess what kinds of loss are at stake from life and loved ones to jobs, wealth, status, relevance, community, loyalty, identity and competence. Assess, manage and provide a context for any loss and help move your people through the losses to a new place.
I have briefly touched on some of the ways The Rise of the Feminine affects business and leadership today. This feminine energy is pulling people together, being comfortable not having all the answers, not rushing to closure, listening empathetically to many and varied diverse opinions, generating creative ideas, and nurturing the capacity to take collective responsibility to solve problems and not operate in silos.
In this article we explored how The Rise of the Feminine has changed how business is being led. In our next instalment we take a quantum leap forward and explore how The Rise of the Feminine is changing the very game of business itself in The Legacy of the Feminine.
by Dennis Roberts