It’s Time for Leaders to Bring Feminine-Masculine Balance Into their Organizations

Conscious leaders (men and women) need to integrate masculine and feminine energy to face today’s challenges; this is how Shakti leadership can help

Crises today seem more real and existential than ever (climate, food, warfare, health, social inequality, and a long list). Yet in the recent past we have overcome a few decisive global challenges that seemed unsurmountable. Humanity has the potential to solve problems, as it has done in the past. But the only way that this potential gets made real is with the right kind of leadership. Great leaders through history made the necessary changes to collectively recover from potentially destructive crises; think of Gandhi, Franklyn Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln. It took a special brand of leadership, which I call conscious leadership.

Better leaders make for a better world and by the same token, bad leaders can destroy what has taken decades or even centuries for us to create (many examples can easily come to our mind). What we urgently need is conscious leadership, which essentially means that power and virtue must go together, as Peter Senge said. People to whom we give power or people who acquire it need to be the most virtuous. The way we have created our societal systems, the most virtuous people do not seek power and people who are hungry for power are not the most virtuous; they are the most Machiavellian, the most corrupted by power.

When organizations look for the authentic meaning of leadership, they need to understand that leadership is selfless. True leaders don’t become leaders to serve their own agenda, but because they want to make the world better, and take people to a better place. In this sense, the most critical thing a company can do is to appoint the right leader, because good leaders can coalesce the extraordinary energy that exists in every organization. As I always say, human beings are not a resource, we are the source.

Organizations need to find leaders who have certain types of values, who are fundamentally kind, caring, strong, purposeful and people-centered. Leaders need to be strong, no doubt, but also have to manifest a great deal of love and care. That combination of strength and love is critical. Strength without love is tyranny, love without strength is often ineffective. So, we need strength and love together, and that's where a masculine-feminine integration is needed.

Broadly speaking, capitalism, business and economics are very much rooted in masculine energy: self-interest, materialism, individualism. In fact, most organizations and corporations internally function like dictatorships, with a command-and-control approach to leadership. In some way, corporations are some of the last islands of dictatorships.

Conscious leadership acknowledges the importance of all human qualities. It's not just about strength, courage, focus, discipline, structure and resilience –which have been traditionally considered more masculine— but recognizing that the feminine shades that have been socially repressed are the ones that we urgently need in the world: empathy, compassion, inclusiveness, patience, forgiveness, vulnerability, caring.

Most men do not understand the feminine. We have been living tens of thousands of years in patriarchal systems where men have suppressed and are afraid of the feminine. That is why you see many cultures around the world where women are subjugated. Most men see the rise of women as leading to the decline of men, but this is rooted in their  fear of losing their privileges. For real progress, women and men need to rise together, integrating the masculine and feminine in themselves, becoming whole.

Conscious leaders deeply embody this. They recognize that change will come not only by having more women in leadership positions, but also by enabling men to cultivate and manifest traditionally feminine qualities. Those  are seen by many as a sign of weakness, whereas in fact they are signs of humanity.

Shakti is a Sanskrit word from India that refers to the divine feminine energy that brings vitality and permeates all life and creation. The message of Shakti leadership is that while most people are born as one of two genders,  when they get stuck in a gender identity, they are operating with half the energy, half their potential. Our goal in this lifetime is to become whole human beings.

How can we do that? Conscious leaders never stop growing; they have a growth mindset and are continuously evolving. Both the masculine and the feminine energies are tremendously powerful. We need to strive to ae as loving and as strong as possible, and do both simultaneously. This takes conscious evolution, becoming aware of our default tendencies and then consciously cultivating the other side. The more we work on ourselves, the more we have a positive impact on others.

In younger generations, traditional notions of men and women, masculine and feminine, are not as strong, they are more fluid. Also, younger generations are more conscious of the environment, climate change and social inequality and are more purpose driven. Likewise, conscious leaders are not just people-centered, but they include the planet and its other forms of life: plants and animals. They must be stewards of all life on this planet. We must recognize that we are intricately connected to all of nature. This is part of what the Latin American region has, as its legacy, but also responsibility to humanity.

Ultimately, conscious leaders are driven by the phrase that I use which is “everybody matters, and everybody needs to win”. As leaders, every life that we touch –employees, customers, communities— matters. Let’s make this an everyday practice and start changing our organizations (and our world) with conscious and Shakti leadership before it is too late.

The author is professor of the EGADE Business School executive program Women Leading Organizations and Chairman of the Conscious Enterprise Center at Tecnológico de Monterrey.

Article originally published in Expansión.

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