Torrie Looks at Feminine Leadership
By Torrie Dunlap, CPLP
The opportunity to lead others is a gift. It is a gift that, in many contexts, historically was not offered to women. While women may have been prohibited from, or at the very least not encouraged to, pursue formal leadership roles in society, there has always been a deep expression of leadership that is uniquely feminine. Women have truly always been leaders, in families and communities, using the qualities of the sacred feminine to bring people together, to heal and to celebrate.
It seems clear that the world is ready for a new model of leadership, one that begins from the heart and embraces the interconnected nature of all people and the environment. As Sophia women are we ready to stand in our own strength and truth and assume the leadership roles that are there and available to us?
I work in a small non-profit organization where I lead of team of passionate, talented women. Over the past year we have quadrupled in size and have had to scale our business to meet a global demand. It has been an exciting, difficult and personally challenging year. Through it I kept asking myself questions like, “How does a Yogi lead?” “What does it mean to be a woman in a leadership role?” So many of the leadership models and examples in our culture are based on the masculine. And, while I hesitate to say it, those examples can show us styles of leadership that do not resonate with women. At least they don’t with me.
The challenges presented to me over the past year required that I take a close look at my own style of leadership. It is important to me that my values are expressed authentically, whether I am at work, on my yoga mat or with my family. In this post, I would like to attempt to define what leadership means to me and how I honor the sacred feminine, or express my own Sophia, in business.
5 Keys to Wise Woman Leadership:
1. Creating a Vision
Leadership begins with a vision, whether the image is a happy, healthy family or a financially viable business. When the vision appeals to people’s hearts and minds, and shows them how they can participate in a positive and powerful change, you will find eager and supportive followers. As the leader you are responsible for communicating the vision, and sustaining it. You are the CHO- Chief Hope Officer, the one who can clearly see the new way of being once the vision is realized. It is your ability to communicate this to others that will fuel the power to achieve a transformation.
2. Nurturing People
It appears that the masculine form of leadership has forgotten that they are leading human beings. It is clear that they think they are leading companies, or nations or cities but yet have lost the idea that all of these entities are made up of people. To lead is at its core the opportunity to serve others. A key element of leadership is to ensure that others can grow, and that their spirit is honored and nurtured by association with you and the connection to the collective you lead.
Compassion and a search for understanding are important in every interaction. Change can be very difficult and uncomfortable for people and in an organization it can provoke some challenging behavior in people resisting the change. I’ve learned that leadership is much more about listening and learning than teaching and talking. What is required is the kind of deep listening that allows one to listen behind the words for the real intent and pain that is trying to be expressed. Holding that person and their vulnerability in a compassionate, safe space is critical. It is my goal at the end of our interactions that people feel affirmed, and while I can’t always give them what they want, I can make sure that they know their value.
4. Building Community
The feminine energy is what brings people together in community. In a leadership effort being part of the community allows each of its members to belong to and believe in something greater than themselves. The sacred feminine in leadership means building a community that is inclusive and where every member is affirmed for their contribution to the whole.
The importance of celebration is a lesson that I have recently re-learned. Working toward a vision for change can be exhausting work, and honoring people and their commitment along the way is important. The sacred feminine, with its creative artistry, life-sustaining abilities and heart-centered nature, is uniquely equipped to lead celebrations that help others find joy and fulfillment in meaningful work.
Wise woman leadership is a manner of leading from the heart, so that in our own opportunity lays the possibility of individual and collective growth and transformation. The world is ready to come back into balance, and shift from a patriarchal culture to one that honors all that we, as Sophia women, have to offer.
We have the innate qualities and the opportunity, and now all we need is to step up and assume the mantle of leadership that honors our own sacred feminine. Will you join me, women of wisdom, in leading the world back into balance?
Torrie Dunlap is the Chief Executive Officer of Kids Included Together, which specializes in best practices training for community–based organizations committed to including children with and without disabilities into their recreational, child development and youth development programs. Torrie is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance, delivering keynotes and trainings around the world on the topic of inclusion of children with disabilities.
We invite you to join us to discuss, exchange ideas and learn more about Wise Woman Leadership at The Sophia Conference, Sunday, December 8th on the San Diego Bay.