Why We Need to Rethink Female Leadership


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There is power in embracing, not ignoring, our cyclical nature as women.

When I first read a feminine leadership article in Forbes magazine calling it “the future”, I flipped out. 

How could feminine traits be considered powerful in the workplace? 

In a time when 79 % of top executive positions are held by men it is easy to take for granted that the only model of leadership is the hegemonic masculine one.

Women who try to reach top positions are often confronted with this expectation that they should behave like men do in order to get a job or maintain a power position. 

When meeting this expectation, female leaders are posed with this question of whether or not they are betraying their inner voice, personality and agency. 

It shouldn’t be this way. 

After surveying more than 60,000 people in 13 countries The Athena Doctrine, a research led by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio, revealed how people were fed up with a hyper masculine type of leadership that exerted control over teams through aggression, tyranny, manipulation and even, violence. 

The report which was later published in a book also revealed the leaders of the “future” should be more empathic, tolerant and open to collaboration.

The thing is we don’t question the concept of leadership itself and we should start to.

We take it for “granted” that leadership is associated with masculine traits instead of wondering, which of those traits have been normalized as a form of power and why? 

Masculine leadership has ruled through centuries by males and also by female leaders, from high profiles like Queen Elizabeth I and Margaret Thatcher, who have recurred to this management style to maintain “influence” or exerting “violence” to persuade others.

We need to rethink female leadership in the US and worldwide because, in order to succeed in the current entrepreneurial ecosystem, it often implies women may suppress their feminine qualities in order to “be taken seriously” because that is how the game plays out. 

And I’m not talking about wearing or not wearing makeup, dressing “girly” or putting on high heels. 

I’m talking about expectations such as “show force when talking”, “a strong presence”, “an unwavering determination”, “a go-getter attitude”, a “hunger to achieve results”, “a long to-do list”… 

These are expectations that harm our relationship with ourselves as women, as leaders and as CEOs.

As a business coach and researcher, I have worked with the extremes: female leaders embracing or rejecting their feminine qualities while disregarding or obsessing over their masculine ones.

How are the dynamics? 

Those who reject their femininity to the extreme become consumed by competition, envy, emotional disconnection and feel a strong desire to dominate an Other.

Those who embrace their femininity to the extreme become consumed by sensitivity, the beautiful world of dreams and ideas and showcase a lack of order, confidence and materialization in the physical world. 

It is easier to talk about how charming feminine leadership is while disregarding the masculine leadership but that is not the case.

Neither is right or wrong. 

To my understanding, this kind of pattern does not help form better leaders because feminine and masculine leaderships do not cancel each other out. 

They complement each other, just as the balance between masculine and feminine energies help human and leadership growth.

If we don’t first heal our notions of “what a leader is” and “what leadership should be”, progress in our workplace and in our personal lives will be slow and even stagnant. 

If we don’t heal our notions with “our femininity” and “our masculinity”, we will keep exteriorizing thoughts, behaviors and actions harming the growth of our personal relationships and, of course, our enterprise.

Embracing masculine and feminine traits in our leadership will only strengthen our chances to become better leaders, women and humans.

So, finally I want to leave you with these questions to reflect upon:

Answer:

  1. What is femininity to you? 
  2. How do you express femininity and in which areas of your life do you allow yourself to do so?
  3. What is masculinity to you? 
  4. How do you express masculinity and in which areas of your life do you allow yourself to do so?
  5. What is leadership to you? 
  6. What should a leader be?
  7. Ultimately, what kind of leader do you want to be?

Let your responses guide you to the type of acceptance work you need to do or have. 

May you allow yourself to be more and do less, work smarter and not harder to achieve your dream goals. 

This is #Day6 of the #90DayChallenge for our blog.
With Lumina’s #90DayChallenge we want to provide guidance on the following months with articles, essays and interviews on: female social entrepreneurship, women’s economic empowerment, travel and wellness.

If you seek guidance to develop these leadership skills for you or your team, look forward to helping you grow. Schedule a 15 min. commitment free clarity session with me here or write me at: hello@nataliabonilla.org

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