“Embody your Feminine Leadership”. This is the title I gave to an upcoming event, and you know when you see something and think, ‘Yeah that sounds good and all’, but you actually have no idea what that means? I feel like that’s kinda the case here. So I will attempt to explain.
Let’s start with Leadership. What’s the first thing that comes to mind for you?
For me it’s authority; the person in charge or at the top of the hierarchical pyramid. There’s an assumption that people following you, like in Peter Pan, singing ‘We’re following the leader, wherever he may go’. There is an expectation that the leader has the answers, and the followers give the leader the permission to exert those answers onto them. Which is a sign there’s an exchange of power, with the leader holding all the cards.
When that collection of power starts to feel good, there can be a desire for those in a leadership position to hold onto that power. Even if a person didn’t start off wanting to control, it usually ends up happening because their identity as a leader is depending on it.
This is not the type of leadership I am encouraging you to embody, although, if you’re like me, it might come natural to you. When that’s what you’ve been surrounded with your whole life, and you’ve been taught to be a good student, you learn really quickly that this is the way you’re supposed to be.
I’d like to offer you another version of Leadership.
In this picture, the individual is forging a path, regardless of whether or not others are following them. Since they have never gone down this path before, they know it would be foolish to think they have all the answers. So they seek out timeless wisdom to act as a guide.
They follow their instincts without others giving them the title or label of “Leader”. In doing so, they claim their own power without extracting the power of others. Since their permission for power comes from within, there is no fear of losing it. It was there all the time, which means it’s not going anywhere, and since it wasn’t given to them by somebody else, no one can take it away. Which means there is no need to control circumstances in order to keep their power. Their power is not circumstantial, it is a choice of whether or not they accept it.
This version of leadership can happen in any setting since it is not relying on other people to ‘be on board’. A mother can be a leader as she searches for an educational setting that will nurture her child’s specific needs. A father can be a leader as he innovates a way to grow low-cost high-yield produce for his family and community.
Any individual creating something new is a leader; whether that creation serves a practical, expressive, or communal purpose. If the new thing challenges an old way of doing things; even something as simple as upcycling the pallette that would normally be thrown away; that is an example of leadership, because you are setting an example that others can choose to follow or not.
I spot this version of leadership in both hidden and obvious places; from friends who might not even identify with the word leader, to people I’ve never met who you might already call a leader because of the size of their social media ‘following’. Yet it’s not the number of ‘Likes’ that makes me count them as a leader; it’s the substance, depth, and fact they are doing things on their terms, not just going along with the status quo.
This version of leadership can be lonely, despaing on some days, and friggin hard on others. It’s also what I believe will help save our collective humanity.
Let’s move on to Feminine. This one can feel like a loaded gun in a post ‘me-too’ world and the rising up of so many pro-women (and anti-men) voices. It’s all too easy to start comparing feminine to masculine and go down a road that makes one out to be better than the other. That’s not what I’m trying to do here.
I chose the word feminine because the second version of leadership above, lives outside of structure. There is no hierarchy, organizational chart, or cubical walls to contain it within. Even if it’s occurring within a group of people that refer to themselves as a team or organization, the energy itself that is fueling the action is not goal-oriented, needing to solve problems, or maintain order; which are typically referred to as healthy masculine traits.
The energy invites the opposite: disruption and chaos. This uncontained energy is typically referred to as healthy feminine traits, and is equally as necessary as maintaining order. To innovate, create, and evolve, there needs to be a willingness to let go of, if not destroy the old. The ensuing chaos might feel uncomfortable at first since there is no certain place to plant the flag, however, it’s in that chaos where everything is thrown up in the air and lands in a new order.
So, so far we’ve got ‘feminine’ and ‘leadership’ covered. Putting them together, we’ve got: Feminine leadership: To forge a path regardless of whether others are following, for no other reason other than you told yourself you’re allowed to, and where the path might end up leading you to create something new.
That actually sounds ballsy to me. Not what our culture normally associates with ‘feminine’.
It’s not only the feminine that’s ballsy though. When you are willing to die, to yourself or a physical death, for the sake of achieving a goal and maintaining peace and order, that’s pretty friggin ballsy too.
I really want to be clear that neither energetically feminine nor masculine fuelled leadership is better than the other. They serve different purposes. Unfortunately for us, we’ve been sold the first version of leadership I described, which isn’t healthy for anyone. It’s time we find another way.
Soulful. That’s a word I’ll throw into the mix that takes us out of a binary and divisive thinking, yet sums up what I’m trying to get at.
My definition of soulful leadership is when a person is listening to a voice within them that is not always logical and doesn’t always follow a plan (call that intuition), and the action they are taking is for a purpose greater than them. It’s not just about achieving for the sake of individual or collective success; the motive is a desire for things like growth, efficiency, resourcefulness, healing, restoration, justice and here’s a good one: joy. This means that typical measures of success don’t cut it. I mean, how do you know if you’ve created or facilitated enough Joy? Instagram likes can’t measure that.
This is how you know the leadership is soulful; it’s being fueled by something that can’t be measured. It’s being fueled by love, and the end goal becomes sort of expression of Love; the very thing that fueled it. It’s a circular, not linear, flow.
Now on to Embodied: This is even more amorphous. The way I see it, there’s different layers to embodiment. It can happen with your thoughts, emotions, physicality, and with your soul. I don’t feel like unpacking all of that right now, so let’s jump to the part that feels most important: the embodiment of your soul.
This layer of embodiment assumes there’s a piece of you that’s not of you; ie a piece of you that came from a Whole that is greater than you. Which makes you a piece of a bigger puzzle. That piece of you that belongs to the puzzle, call it your soul. (Or consciousness, or higher self. Depending on where you landed on this earth, you might have another name for it.)
Embodiment in this context includes the marrying of your soul to your body; when the part of you that can’t be seen or touched is realized and expressed in physical form. Some people call this incarnation.
Personally, I find it really hard to let this happen fully. I’m scared of totally letting go of the reigns and let all my little soul inklings manifest through me. How would I make money? Afford a house? Pay the bills? And have all my other practical needs met if I let the part of me that I can’t see, touch, or feel, be in charge? At least I can see my brain on a catscan if I really wanted to.
Then there’s the emotional risk of letting this mystical part of you lead. What will people think of me if I chuck it all in and travel around living with indigenous cultures for months at a time? What if I make the first phone call to see what it would take to pull together a sober rave, and then it never happens and the idea is a complete flop? How can I trust that my soul is going to guide me to a place of guaranteed success?
And when you try to let your soul start to lead and you’re still operating in that first form of leadership that assumes top-down decisions, it’s really hard to let your soul be on top (especially when your brain is already situated there.)
Which is why it’s really helpful to approach this from the second form of leadership. In that scenario, everyone’s got a voice at the table. Your soul, your brain, your body. They sit in circle, and get to duke it out and come to a consensus, without a power trip.
And there’s your embodiment. The alignment between all parts of you.
Allowing your soul to express itself through your body, with your mind on board, that your purpose here is to let Love flow through you. Do that while you’re creating something new that’s never been done before, and you’ve got embodied feminine leadership.
To simplify that: Let yourself be who you are.
A combo of spirit and matter, a vessel for Love, and a unique expression of that Love that has never lived this life before.
And that’s how Embodied Feminine Leadership = Just Be You.