What Does Feminine Leadership Look Like?

As a woman taking-on leadership roles in many different domains in my life–from my own workshops and programs to my role at Shift Network to my spiritual community– I’ve often struggled with what it means to be a truly feminine leader.

Most of the leaders that surrounded me growing up were men.  Many wonderful men!  But they were men who embodied masculine leadership styles.  So for much of my life, I learned to emulate them.

In the corporate environment, I remember wearing a pants suit, tying back my hair, and wearing glasses so my “feminine side” would be less obvious.  I can recall my father telling me “you’ve got to be tough!”  And I learned to wear a more armored exterior.  I was trained in linear thinking, with a focus on efficiency and the bottom line. And I must say that cultivating these traits have served me in many ways. I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

However, following that masculine roadmap also left me feeling unsatisfied.  But what does it mean to really embody feminine leadership?  It’s way deeper than being willing to wear a flowing dress to work or putting some flowers on your desk.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I think many of us are exploring this topic as we find authentic ways to present ourselves and lead in the world.  For me, it’s about showing-up with ALL of who I am, instead of trying to match a picture of how I am supposed to be as a leader.

I am someone who celebrates beauty and loves the arts.  I love to express myself in the way I dress, and I sometimes start our team meetings by getting everyone to sing with me. It’s a part of who I am, and other people seem to enjoy it too–even though it’s a bit different than the “norm” of work meetings.

Sharing deep connections with others brings me great joy, and I do my best to cultivate those connections with people at all different ranks in our company.  When it comes to strategy and decision-making, spending some time in meditation or really tapping my deepest intuition is usually way more important than consulting my calculator.

I also try to pay attention to my BODY and my very human feelings. What is my body telling me as I sit in our work meetings?  What’s really going on?  As I engage with our employees, I attempt to read between the lines to understand what’s real and how we create an environment where they can truly thrive.  I know that when everyone’s cup is full, the work we will produce will be that much better.

These are just a few of my thoughts. But I am actually MOST interested in a dialogue with you on this topic. What does it mean to YOU to embody feminine leadership principles? Who are your own role models in this regard?

I’ve started a discussion thread here: http://www.facebook.com/inspiringwomensummit

Please share your thoughts and let’s have a conversation about it!

To see a video I posted on this topic, go to: http://youtu.be/Dwz1qochyXE