I want to start this piece with a very clear statement:
We need to create more equity in the percentage of men, women and other genders in leadership roles.
This will happen through the ongoing support of young girls and women, in building programs for those who identify as other genders, and to continue to do the work inside organizations to shift the practices and cultures that have led to the disparity that remains the dominant reality today.
But we should also be very clear about this:
This does not mean men should not be in leadership roles, or that 50/50 or any other split in who holds what role will fix what is wrong with the leadership crisis that plagues us.
The “problem” with leadership today is not that men are in senior positions, or even that they hold the majority of those positions. It is that they have been “permitted”, in some cases even trained, to express their masculine energy in unhealthy and dangerous ways. We need to work to help people to better understand and leverage their masculine energies, and that is true no matter what gender you identify as.
Femininity ≠ Female
In so much of the public dialogue, especially those who are carrying the largest megaphones, there has been an ever-growing momentum behind the conflation of the male/female and masculinity/femininity models. We hear masculine, we think male. We hear feminine, we think female. We want a more human and feminine way of running our organizations, our communities and our families? We need to elevate the feminine by increasing the number of females that are leading in these spaces. At least, that is what we are being told.
I have three daughters, so I am inspired by this movement and the energy being put behind it. It absolutely should continue. I want them to have every opportunity to lead, should they choose to do so, in whatever space they wish to express that. But we should also be clear that gender has nothing to do with how good a leader you are any more than the colour of your skin, your country of origin, or any other physical, biological or cultural trait you might have.
What matters is having a clear understanding of what the different elements that make up Leadership are, and knowing how and when to use them. This includes Masculinity and Femininity. Both are very different, are meant to be complementary, and exist in varying degrees in all of us, regardless of our gender. Empathy, humility and sensitivity are all associated with femininity. So are nurturance, devotion and understanding, to name a few. Some of those associated with masculinity include courage, discipline, assertiveness, stability and focus.
When these energies are understood and leveraged by any individual, regardless of their gender, the best leaders know what is required and how to express them in positive, healthy ways. Conversely, both femininity and masculinity have negative expressions, as well. Often considered to be “wounded” expressions of each, we find neediness, weakness and over-sensitivity on the feminine side, while the masculine will be expressed as being aggressive, abusive and dominant over others. Not healthy for anyone involved, especially if they are coming from our leaders.
One of the best bosses I have ever had the chance to work with was both caring and nurturing when I needed support, but also strong and assertive when I needed a kick in the butt. And that leader was a woman.
A paradigm shift
The symbiotic relationship between feminine and masculine is not just about what is happening in our workplaces. Much of how I spend my energy today is not on helping boys and men to necessarily enhance their feminine, but to rather better understand their masculine, to navigate the energies that they are feeling in healthy ways. When we do this, there is natural space that is made for their feminine energy to rise up, to be expressed, as we become comfortable and confident in who we are and how we wish to show up in the world.
What we learn to do is function in a paradigm of having power WITH others instead of having power OVER others. Male or female, transgender, non-binary or gender fluid, what the world needs are leaders who are connected to their sense of self, and to others. They should be aware of what is happening around them in order to offer the people they work with the energy and support that is appropriate to the moment.
When we do that, we create a future where everyone can see themselves as being a contributor to something we are proud of, because we are building it together.
About Paul Simard
Founder, Curator, humenity.co
Director, Community and Impact Partnerships, UNHCR Canada
Paul Simard is both an intrapreneur and an entrepreneur, currently in the role of Director of Community and Impact Partnerships for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Canada. He is also the founder of huMENity – a peer-supported platform that creates “brave spaces”, both real and virtual, for men of all ages to come together and grow through an openness to be vulnerable, share and support each other, with a goal of supporting the paradigm shift to a new, more mindful masculine archetype. He is married with three beautiful daughters, who are the motivation behind all he does.