The Higher Call to Leadership

5 minutes read

5 minutes read

Leadership is a concept too many women often resist. It can seem pretentious, or even lofty to claim for oneself. And yet for others there are so many conditions attached to the idea that it seems beyond reach, unattainable. Or perhaps you’re more like I was, and see it as a means to an end – a way to get that promotion, that raise, that opportunity.

How we perceive leadership fuels our beliefs about leadership, which then influences how we see ourselves and how we show up in life. What I see in so many women I meet - what I see in their stories, in their ability to rise up to challenges, to overcome obstacles, to navigate the uncertainties of life – what I see in them is leadership. First with Self and then with others. I see them embody their personal power and strength, even when they don’t feel like they are. There is an authentic, nurturing power that emerges when we give ourselves permission to be the leader within, when we connect with our leadership spirit.

The journey to wholeness, the fullness of being human, and showing up fully is a story of leadership for each individual and for our collective society. As Brené Brown says, “our wholeness—even our whole-heartedness—actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences”, our light and our shadow, our ebb and our flow, and all the messiness in between. Wholeness does not mean perfection. Wholeness means acknowledging our wounds as well as are strengths, and saying I am all of the above.

Leadership is the highest calling of humankind. Our greatest responsibility and our most difficult task as human beings is leading ourselves. Leading ourselves well means we hold ourselves to a higher standard of accountability than others do. Leadership is a trust, a way of being, not a right or title. And while leadership begins within, it doesn’t end there. Leadership radiates out to all we cross paths with as we take meaningful steps forward to brighten the lives of others.

How we see the leader within us is often formed by the people we read, the examples we perceive, and the judgments of society. Leadership has as many different definitions and applications as there are people writing and talking about it.  I say that at the risk of putting myself in that same bucket. My relationship with leadership has certainly taking on many forms, many levels of awareness, and while I practice it, teach it, and coach to it, I am by no means at the end of my evolution with it.  My hope is that the magic and mystery of leadership will continue to unfold in meaningful ways for the remainder of my days. Because one thing is certain, as leadership is nurtured on the daily, it manifests in a multitude of ways.

As I’ve grown closer to embracing my wholeness, my philosophy of leadership has evolved. See, our spirit is always seeking fuller expression and expansion of itself. It calls us to wholeness, and the path to wholeness is an inward journey. Our inner world gives us access to the Great Mystery within and helps us to know and accept more of the totality of who are. Parker Palmer reminds us that when we “go far enough on the inner journey – go past the ego toward true self – and you end up not lost in narcissism but returning to the world, bearing more gracefully the responsibilities that come with being human.”

Your leadership philosophy either supports or suppresses your spirit’s ability to express and expand itself. Everything, and I mean everything, in our tangible world, first begins with an intangible thought. To transform our external world, our life experience, we must examine the thoughts we are giving shape to. This is your invitation to make conscious your personal philosophy of leadership.

As I’ve examined my beliefs on leadership, I’ve had to look at what has influenced me.  And I must admit, until recently, my journey is reflective of the dominating leadership narratives that have unfolded over the last 30 years. In short, that narrative began with a focus on material prosperity for the privileged few, to the greater well-being and prosperity for all, including the planet. It has transformed from being an exclusive “market-centric” focus, to embracing a more “human-centric” consciousness: one that aspires for greater love and belonging.

“In the past, jobs were about muscles, now they’re about brains, but in the future they’ll be about heart.” - Minouche Shafik, director, London School of Economics

These earlier narratives embodied traditional masculine energies, and while they may have produced fiscal results, they have also left many of us feeling empty, disconnected, and sometimes disillusioned. The feminine rising in this millennia is to fill the void that has been long-neglected. It’s an invitation into wholeness as humankind.

Masculine and feminine leadership energies are not gender specific. This was a confusion I held for many years. And since coming into greater awareness and clarity, what I’ve observed is this assumption has created an unconscious bias that prevents us from stepping authentically into our wholeness which includes both energies. Both are essential for us to survive and thrive with one another, and on this planet.

Masculine is a focus on self and therefore survival, and feminine is a focus on others and the ability to thrive. For example, if you focus solely on self and are in the masculine, the decisions you make will not be harmonious and collaborative. If you focus solely on others in the feminine, you may prioritize the survival of others over and above yourself.

The effects of the masculine-only narrative can be seen in our homes, organizations, and government. We see it in the women and men who were raised to believe they have to be masculine to lead, therefore are driven by survival. Survival looks like competition, the quest for power, divisiveness and fear. These themes contribute to the patriarchal hierarchies that lack true creativity and connectivity.

On the other hand, feminine leadership includes connection, growth, and sharing – qualities that belong to all of us. Those that step authentically into their feminine when leading are able to demonstrate insight, kindness and the desire to energetically connect to and unlock true potential in others.

Does this mean that feminine leadership will become the dominating narrative? The invitation to wholeness is a call to harmonize and synthesize both energies.  It’s embracing and embodying both the feminine and the masculine within us, without fear or judgment. It’s owning and loving the whole of who we are.

This is a journey of moving out of our heads and deeper into our hearts so that we can serve more meaningfully with our hands. When we get too much into our heads, where the stories of “Am I good enough? Did I do it right?” live, we lose track of the inner guidance system we were born with. Human beings are guided by emotions. We are defined by what we desire, not what we know. These desires emerge from deep within us, and all we need is to get still, listen, trust, and respond.

While our ego (head) may be the driving force in this earthly life, it is our soul (heart) that serves as the guiding force. When we create alignment with these two energies, and enable them to work together, we create a beautiful synergy that is magnetic and expansive. We move from leadership as a role, to embodying the leadership soul, to the two entwined.

So, what’s my leadership philosophy?  I see leadership as the highest calling of humanity. Leadership is pursuing the highest version of ourselves while creating space and opportunity for others to do the same.

What’s your leadership philosophy? And how has this thought offering affected your ideas on leadership?