It always amazes me that when I have an inspiration about what I want to contribute through my leadership and commit to it, I get thrown head-long into the same development pathway that I’m offering to others!
I suppose this is the same thing as teaching what you most need to learn. And I’m pretty ok about that actually. It feels totally natural to me to teach something that is close to my own journey and something that I’m passionate about because of my own experience.
I’m quite upfront about my own development edge as a leader because what I really want to nurture in myself and others, is an openness and ‘vulnerability’ that develops our capacity to be who we are and not only feel comfortable in our own skin but feel warm, uplifted, inspired, powerful and compassionate in our own skin! This is the freeing experience of being authentic and yet one which so many of us grapple with and feel challenged by.
It’s been present for me recently, because I’m at a the beginning of a new phase in my work where I’m starting to offer something that is more authentic for me to be sharing and that takes women on a deeper, more personal and heart-centred leadership quest. Just writing that feels challenging at one level, because I know that many women don’t necessarily resonate with the ‘softer’ language and the deeper personal and spiritual context of our journey as leaders.
On the other hand it seems that so many of us are are waking up to a yearning to experience something more meaningful and revealing of our true capacities as leaders. I know that I’m not alone in feeling called to make a bigger difference and to do something which has a positive impact on others. I also know that in order to realise the potential I hold to do that, I need to be more fully myself and take the risk to express myself in ways that might unintentionally alienate others.
Of course, this fear of alienation isn’t a purely personal one. It’s one which is shared in the field for many women. We’re in the process of evolving our leadership and asking many questions about how to be fully ourselves, how to express ourselves from a place of authenticity and power that is natural to us and how to be a leader in a way that is embracing of our true gifts, our feminine wisdom and our natural capacities as women.
I call this ‘feminine leadership’. Not because I want to exclude or diminish the masculine strengths in us, but because it emphasises the feminine ‘energy’ and qualities that we need to re-embrace and bring back into balance with the masculine, in order to lead from a place of wholeness and sustainability.
Many of us are turned off by the more traditional ‘masculine’ models of leadership that see in both men and women. But what is the new way? So many of us are finding our way with what it is to be a ‘whole’ women and a leader in the world and not have these two ‘identities’ fight and compromise one another.
I believe this is one of the reasons why so many women hold back and don’t step up to (or even why they step down from) taking greater responsibility in leadership capacities. It’s not that the desire isn’t there, but the role modelling of ‘how’ and ‘why’ doesn’t sit with them well. In simplistic terms, the pressure of the typical ‘masculine’ ways of ‘doing’ that are so engrained in us, operating without the balance of the feminine ways of ‘being‘ can be both overwhelming and exhausting.
I’m just beginning a new free teleseminar series, 8 Essential Doorways to the Heart of Feminine Leadership. In it I’m sharing a new framework that stems from an ancient wisdom model of leadership that I’ve synthesised with other transformative leadership perspectives and practices.
The essence of the teaching is really focused on the principle that when we lead ourselves, our lives and our work authentically from the heart, we naturally access the wisdom and capacity we need to actualise the next level of our potential and contribute our greatest gifts as leaders.
Like any transformative process of development, it’s easier said than done. Leading for the sake of leading, without it being heart-connected is not an enjoyable experience but often where we end up if we’re not consciously engaging our development. This is where motivation wains and we default into operating from the head and become very disconnected from the feelings, wisdom and vitality we hold in our bodies. It becomes a doing exercise and an non-relational chore.
So how can we become and stay more heart-connected in our leadership?
It’s a great question to hold and one which can certainly be addressed in a multitude of ways.
One of the things that is key for me is taking time out of my day to nurture myself and to have a regular practice (that I often call ‘whitespace’) that brings me fully into the awareness of my body and that gives me space to connect with and relate to how I am feeling. Often simply walking or just sitting in nature will be enough to give me a sense of space and perspective on my day and to remember why I’m doing what I’m doing.
But when I feel up against a big pressure or if I’m holding uncomfortable emotions (which is generally what causes the pressure), I know that’s a sign that I need to find a deeper connection with myself. I frequently need to sit with and hold the discomfort and find out what the emotion is really telling me so that I can distance who I am from the experience I’m having and find resources to support me in responding generatively to whatever has triggered the experience.
These practices of self care and awareness are key to heart-centred leadership because it’s essential that we bring a nurturing and compassionate energy to ourselves as a baseline for our capacity to lead others in a compassionate, wise and creative way.
The bottom line is that we are constantly up against challenges that block us from being in our hearts and it’s a natural part of our development. When we step out and take on the next level of our leadership, we take more risks outside our comfort zone and so we’re bound to come up against the resistances that need to be addressed in order to stand more clearly in our authentic sense of who we are and express ourselves from that place.
Rather than seeing the challenges and resistance as problems, I try to see them as a metaphorical ‘doorway’ to our true creative power and potential. We sometimes stand unknowingly at a doorway when we’re facing a big life challenge or just a repetitive difficulty that puts us at the developmental ‘edge’ of our comfort zone. And if we don’t recognise that we’re standing at a doorway, we’re more likely to get thrown off course by our subtle fears and often try to deal with them by getting defensive and either busting through and overriding our feelings or turning away and trying to avoid what it is we really need to do (or not do!).
If we could face these challenges with the deep confidence that by embracing them wholeheartedly, we’ll discover all the resources we need to move beyond them, then we’re going to find it much easier to navigate them.
In my free teleseminar I introduce what I call 8 Essential Doorways to the Heart of Feminine Leadership. The framework (which is held in a circle representing wholeness) can help us to see more clearly where we need to focus our attention as feminine leaders, in order to grow beyond the limitations or challanges we are currently experiencing. We get to see the doorways we are standing at more clearly and find ways to gently and powerfully address the blocks so we can move to a place of heart clarity.
I know that on my own quest to bring the feminine back into balance in me, the journey has been and still is one that challenges me constantly to soften, to take more care of myself, to value myself more, to more lovingly embrace my vulnerability and to take a stand for my own values and true cares. It seems both ironic and yet obvious that on the journey to becoming stronger in my leadership, I’m being called to soften and embrace myself in a much more loving and nurturing way.
I’m beginning to experience how standing more fully in our hearts as women can be yielding and powerful at the same time. The tenderness of a loving mother with her new born baby alongside the ferocity of the mother bear who is protecting her young.
I heard Marrianne Williamson speak recently about the work she is fostering amongst women to take a stand for those less fortunate than us. In my words, she said that our natural role as women has always been as care takers of our home and carers and nurturers of our children. But what’s happening for many of us now as we naturally evolve our potential, is that we begin to see that the whole planet is our home and that all the children in the world are ours. What she said landed so clearly in me and affirmed what I have been sensing in myself for a long time.
This, I believe is what feminine leadership is really about. Standing in our true care for life, leading from the heart with our innate feminine values and making the difference we were born to make. A life long journey of growth!