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Are your leaders "too masculine"?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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By Keith Merron

In the Chinese tradition, yin and yang — feminine and masculine — are seen as forces that when brought together, become a natural whole. In the Hindu tradition, Shakti is the goddess of the feminine and Shiva is the god of the masculine. They come together to form a unified whole — different sides of the same coin. 

Throughout the ages, traditions have valued the unification of the masculine and feminine. If we move too far toward the masculine, we often do damage, are overly aggressive and don’t listen. Our expression becomes dominant, excessive and rigid. We become overly controlling. If we move too far toward the feminine, we have no movement. We have no direction, drive or force. We become tentative and too yielding.

Related: Memo to men: Don't just "get it." Do it 

A new leadership style

As leaders, if we can expand our capacity in the masculine and feminine, where we can play with and express both, our ability to consciously lead and choose our response in different situations is expanded.

The masculine drive to create, innovate, grow, develop, reach new heights and compete for the betterment of the system has created extraordinary outcomes. Unfortunately, there are two significant downsides to the masculine leadership style.

One is the tendency for the masculine to dominate the environment for its own desires. As a result, our environment is showing clear signs of suffering. It is no accident we call our planet "Mother Earth," and she is in pain. We are driving forward without considering the severe consequences, without a sense of connection to her.

The second downside is that the masculine is highly linear and operates much better when the variables are known, consistent and manageable. To the extent that the world is highly changing, ever fluid and highly unpredictable, the masculine style is limited in its ability. Fluidity and the ability to dynamically steer are far more important now than holding tight to five-year strategic plans.

A style of leadership combining a healthy masculine and feminine is needed to navigate our way through this continuously evolving world. Progress and movement, including mindfulness about the larger picture, considering multiple perspectives and decision-making with awareness, are crucial to organizational success. Companies that understand this and have a blend of men and women in senior positions are much better at producing results.

So take a look around your organization. Do you see a healthy balance of the masculine and feminine? Are you taking advantage of the full depth and breadth of your talent pool by welcoming and leveraging the natural differences between men and women? Or are you holding on tightly to an imbalanced masculine model of leadership that is rapidly becoming a dying breed in today’s highly volatile and ever-changing environment?

Dr. Keith Merron is a senior associate at Barbara Annis & Associates, part of a team challenging the prevailing paradigms of business. He is the author of a number of books on leadership and organization life. The most recent is Gender Intelligence: Breakthrough Strategies for Increasing Diversity and Improving Your Bottom Line, co-authored with Barbara Annis. He also writes a column about conscious leadership for Real Leaders.

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.

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