Photo credit: Craig Burrows
Female leadership has a truly generative nature, that is, an attitude to the original contribution with a high aesthetic component. It draws indeed on a creative dimension and feeds on belonging.
It is not defined by a merely directional dimension and at the most authentic core, female leadership identifies with the creation of beauty.
Most of the time, however, women tend to sacrifice these vital dimensions to the mainstream, strongly directive leadership focused on goals and objectives. That is indeed what we inherited from traditional leadership models. We are thought to drive fast, well weaponed, strongly directional, and boldly functional.
Yet this unidimensional aspect of leadership is not nourishing for women, it does not express nor fulfil the feminine quests for a more authentic contribution to the world. Soon or later in their leadership journey, female leaders encounter this dilemma and it becomes a turning point in their personal leadership.
A soul-making process
I believe leadership is the artful process of creating a soulful journey. It is the process of making our own soul through our endeavours in the world. Our creative nature needs to be fully embraced. Along the way to realizing our mission, we truly want to build meaningful collaborations, sponsor people and awaken places.
Beauty dwells in relationships for us and we implicitly and inevitably suffer from the hard unbalance between tasks and relationships that characterized most of our working places.
But we tend to forget the true nature of our work and leadership. We are often trapped in excessive functionalism, which is an enemy of the creation of beauty. We are easily seduced by the efficiency of the tasks, functions, and roles at the expense of soulfulness. Sadly, it looks like we are still suffering from an industrial approach to our mission on Earth.
Time, Space, and Self
In our times, three important forces, time, space, and self, are terribly shrunk and make soulful leadership arduous and awkward for women. Even more now in the digital era, time is excessively squeezed and space is constrained. A more natural rhythm that would be in tune with a feminine quality of presence is not there to support intuition, creativity, sense of belonging.
As a consequence, the self is anxious. To be successful and perform, we send essential parts of ourselves into exile. Typically we hide the parts of ourselves that we suspect are considered weak and doubtful. At the very moment of this separation, we lose our innate beauty. And simultaneously, we lose our unique gift of leadership as a potential creation of beauty.
From this very moment on, we stop being generative of a soulful journey for ourselves and we weaken our capacity of being great sponsors of the potential and growth of the others around us.
“The greed for destination obliterates the journey”, says John O’Donohue, an Irish author who has actively worked during his life for bringing about soulfulness and beauty in leadership. The greed and the speed to achieve often make the destination a false high and unique priority that entirely dominates the leadership approach. When we are flattened by this greed, we may become frozen and detached, truly absent from what is the meaning of the journey. The process of awakening talents and allowing the flourishing of workplaces along the way toward the vision becomes hardly a priority.
Subsequently, a sense of emptiness and dryness can emerge and affect the leadership journey of women. They start to feel the need to integrate a more nourishing and more meaningful approach to leadership. They seek new vital lymph to infuse their roles and they aspire to heal the painful sense of separation and disconnection.
Beauty awaits the gaze of our leadership
In the search for soulfulness of our female leadership, we are unconsciously driven by the possibility of creating beauty in the world we inhabit.
How can we do that in fact?
Beauty dwells all the potential and the giftedness of people and places. Our gaze needs to develop the capacity to see them. And acknowledge the indispensable necessity of their true contribution. Beauty dwells also in those spaces and those times that call for our attention and creativity. In the appearance of an obstacle, in the emergence of a conflict, in presence of a failure. In these very moments that call for our attention, we can create something magical: a new sense of belonging.
Acting consciously so as to activate the sense of belonging wherever we walk, defending the value of beauty, defending the value of creating an expressive work environment, and caring deeply about sponsoring the truthful contribution of people, need to become top priorities of our leadership, while we travel toward our vision. Awakening a sense of belonging means awakening a sense of belonging to oneself, to a sense of unique presence, activating creativity and imagination around us.
Our very first act of female leadership is however an act of self-leadership: finding and voicing our own belonging to beauty.
A reflection moment for yourself
- Where do you see beauty in your leadership endeavour?
- Where can you bring more beauty to your private and professional context?
- What parts of time, space and yourself do you feel you have sent into exile?
- What little steps can you make to re-include them in your leadership journey?