The Rise of the Feminine in Leadership & Life
Our masculine strength, power, and rationality must be in service of feminine softness, presence, and relationship—not the other way around—to thrive in life, love, and leadership
It’s A Man’s (Painful) World
Last week I read that the world is missing c.1 million midwives. Because it is a profession that is quintessentially focused on tending to relationships?—?ushering new life into the world and ensuring mothers that remain alive and healthy— it is not valued in a world where being a coder or analyst (working 80+ hours a week) is.
It is estimated that c. 4 million mothers’ and infants’ lives are lost because of this each year.
Let’s let that sink in.
We are willing to let 4 million people, many of them babies, die because we collectively don’t value a healing-and-caring profession. The competitive, zero-sum, and quintessentially masculine activities that we do to “make it” in the hyper-modern attention/scarcity economy cost lives.
Meanwhile, recent research shows that workplace stress is as dangerous a secondhand smoke—and costs the USA alone 120,000 deaths per year. Add in the loss of biodiversity and glacier ice from endless desires for economic growth and stuff to feel better—and we can see that playing ‘winning’ in life means we all lose everything that really matters
We now see empathic and relational practices—like ‘psychological safety’, coaching, mindfulness, wellbeing, and emotional intelligence—being commodified and co-opted into instruments of power. The more ‘feminine’ aspects of these practices—like love, compassion, charity, and mercy—have been removed so they maintain agendas of more, faster, better: the achievement of ‘my best self’, optimized up the wazoo, measured by apps, publicized on Instagram.
Sign up to our regular newsletter
Insightful articles, practical wisdom, and nourishing content on how to transform yourself, your organizations, and our world.
Caveat emptor: Like many others, I use masculine/feminine to signify a mode, energy, or orientation not sexuality, gender, or personality. We all have both masculine and feminine modes, yang and yin, controlling and caring, analytical and synthetic within, and can choose to embody them in different ways over time.
The crises we face in our world and in our hearts, in our enterprise and in our marriages, are there precisely because more ‘feminine’ relational (rather than rational) ways of knowing ourselves, each other, and the world have been left behind; or relegated to the preserve of ‘nice’ people who finish last (and take care of our dying parents, educate our kids in kindergarten, midwife our babies, and transform us with their art).
Our failure to live in accordance with (our) nature as as much relational as we are rational—valuing presence as much as power/ productivity/ profit/ prestige—has led us to be unable to live in reciprocal interdependent relationships with each other, and our planet.
Healing the heart, being with each other in humility and vulnerability, living at-one-ment with nature… have all, more or less, been lost in favor of reason, logic, mind, money, science, and technology.
The Invitation Into Embodied Wisdom
We have been asked to deny our most vulnerable sensations and loving intuitions in order to seem invincible. As our feminine intuitions have been denigrated and effaced, so has our collective capacity to live in interdependent and reciprocal relationships with each other and the planet we rely on for everything.
We cannot solve our individual or social problems with the same state of “embodied wisdom”—our capacity to care for, tend, and nurture reciprocal and interdependent relationships—that led to their creation, no matter how smart we are.
We cannot transform our most painful personal challenges, or our most threatening civilizational challenges, without a fundamental recalibration of the masculine-feminine spectrum of consciousness.
We have constant innovation and transformation in everything apart from our relationships with each other and the planet we rely on for everything. The last thing we need is a Mars colony—or more technologies that are degenerative, dissociating, and alienating. We have the innovation potential, the technologies (mostly), the lean entrepreneurship tools, the optimization hacks that any species can ever need.
What we need to do is take care—the core orientation of relational embodied wisdom—of what we have. We want to swap out the conveniences and comforts of hyper-modern capitalism for the care and connection of healthy and wise regenerative relationships. And we want to harness masculine power from science, technology, and innovation in service of repairing our planet, within “Regenerative Tech”.
With hearts hurt by others in our formative relationships, we get fixated on maladapted ways to protect ourselves and gain power. We become ruled by hurt and angry inner children, that lash out against ourselves, others, and nature. We lose reciprocity in our relationships, leveraging them for gains in status and income because we feel so unsafe and unseen inside.
This retardation of our relational development, of our embodied wisdom, costs us our own inner peace, sense of belonging, and self-love.
It is also clearly costing our species its future.
The Long Journey Home To the Feminine
My journey back home— to tend to my hurt feminine heart that had been covered up by a twisted masculine trying to protect it again from bullying, exclusion, and shaming—all came into potent harmony when I met my wife of the last 10 years. She is now my business partner and is a co-founder of Switch On.
Alison, a dancer turned biodynamic craniosacral therapist turned embodied transformation coach from California, has been a seminal force of endless patience, intense love-filled presence, and generous healing.
Always invited into a genuinely undefended and heart-opened presence by Alison, I have recovered from a huge Patriarchal hangover (with attendant addictions to academic geekery, alpha power, wicked wit, complexity mapping, and more).
I came to realize, after years of experiencing the very hard way, that being relationally wise, and being rationally smart, are profoundly distinct.
As soon as we seek to use our cognitive talents and charismatic masculinity to win an argument or win a project in a zero-sum game—or attempt to peacock our skills in front of clients or colleagues when really wanting to unfold our purpose to lead the way to regenerative systems—we have already lost.
If we seek approval and recognition, or status and puffery, we merely reinforce the very Patriarchal power structures that wounded and scarred our hearts.
I consciously, though with some degree of inner conflict, chose to give up playing the Patriarchy Games (in the vast majority of my life). This purposeful release and recalibration of masculine values within me could only happen through healing my scared yet sacred feminine, bullied as it was by the traumatized-twisted-toxic masculine in others and within myself.
Then my masculine could also heal, supported within by my feminine presence, love, and connection—and without the need to be always vigilant against threats. I had found a way to consistently provide myself with the love, safety, and connection we all need within. This is at the core of the transformation methodology we have developed to use within our coaching work and development programs.
As I healed my relational wounds, my feminine healer within grew stronger. And the emotional and energetic drain from playing the Patriarchy Games grew less.
And then something new arrived.
Release To Receive
As I returned home to my feminine heart, building my capacity for self-healing within, I discovered that nature has evolved a perfect mechanism for growth, learning, and development.
We call it the Way of Transformation—and we bring it to life visually in The Transformation Curve.
There is much to say about this pathway. A number of our books explore it in great detail. But perhaps the most important learning within the Way of Transformation is that after we choose to release (old pain, ideas, habits, wounds, trauma)…. we receive. And we receive it from within ourselves—not from searching and seeking outside us.
We get the gifts we need to make us whole that we spent our lives trying to get through products, power, profit, and popularity. The feminine within us provides exactly what we need to feel connected, to belong, to feel loved and loving that our masculine exhausted itself trying to get through external means.
In return for focusing on the relational over the rational, for prioritizing love over lack, I received everything I had ever really wanted: an endlessly exciting and nourishing romance; a rich and rewarding family life; a deep and lasting sense of inner peace; and a clear and meaningful purpose/ duty/ dharma.
I thought the mid-century modern house in California, the big business exit, and the Oprah couch moment (I came close) were what I wanted. But these were just proxies that my wounded masculine thought would make up for my relational emptiness and fragmented heart.
What I really longed for, what years of working with 10,000s of people have taught me that we all long for, is profoundly reciprocal, spiritually rich, experientially interdependent, and emotionally intimate connection/love/purpose.
And we yearn for this with Nature, our planet, and society too as much as we want it with ourselves and our kin.
As I healed, my exhausted and enervated masculine could gave up limping around life around attempting to defend my wounded honor with a rusty sword (intellectual might and industry recognition) and a broken shield (social popularity and coolness).
Given the ruptures across all my relational fields— from divorce and schism, bullying and social exclusion, failure to be intimate with women, unprocessed family trauma from the Holocaust etc.—these outcomes were anything but certain.
Even if I had “gotten” spiritual awakening and personal transformation, I could easily have focused on the masculine arenas of performance coaching, non-dual teaching, conscious evolution, developmental stage theories, and motivational speaking… rather than stepping into the feminine arena of healing, holding space, nourishing, and guiding.
The Way Of Transformation
I write this not to puff up my masculine ego but as a testament to the power of feminine healing, which offers the possibility for all people to heal and become whole. We are all autotherapeutic. We can all heal ourselves—even if guides/coaches, medicines, and sanghas play a powerful role.
By following the predominately feminine Way of Transformation—developing deepening embodied wisdom through healing my ruptured relationships with Self/ lovers/ communities/ society/ nature—I have freed myself from masculine domination and the trials and tribulations of the Patriarchy Games.
The Way of Transformation, no matter how fancy the hacks and tools (and we have lots) is a quintessentially feminine process, albeit with masculine moments of repatterning, grit, and determination. This is because it is about healing relationships through cellular changes within us all; and about releasing and receiving, not about force, will, or genius.
It takes a lot of time to find all the pockets of pain within us, stored as shock and trauma, and raise them into consciousness so the warm glow of limitless love can dissolve them away.
It takes years to slowly rewire biological neurons that don’t change as quickly as digital pathways. We are organisms not algorithms. We can speed up the process of transformation. We can avoid time-wasting pitfalls and dead ends. But we cannot harry, hurry, or hack the process.
Repair takes presence and patience. And, as my wife and kids will tell you, no amount of smartness or intellectual getting of this leads to actual heart-open presence and connective patience—until we make the huge shift to swap out (some of) the power, wit, and speed of the masculine for the presence, wisdom, and sensitivity of the feminine.
This repair—that we are all invited to make within the elemental spiritual path of awakening to psychologically become whole—cannot, biologically, happen in minutes, days, or even weeks.
It is a slow and sensitive process that takes time. It means journeying across many dark nights, finding the light within growing brighter, and flaming up faster, each time we make depart into the darkness. Becoming whole—whilst it requires masculine aspects of discipline, commitment, rigor, and reason—is always, always about compassion, kindness, and connection.
But everyone can do it.
Join us for free webinars on healing and transformation ourselves: https://switchonleadership.com/free-webinars/
Masculine Serving the Feminine
We want to reach a dynamic creative harmony between masculine and feminine. We want to unfold our lives and leadership activities from body-minds that have achieved some kind of unity between the seeming opposites of rational masculine and relational feminine qualities and consciousnesses. Jung described this ‘chymical marriage’, alchemically and psychologically, as the Mysterium Coniunctionis.
Wisdom is never violent: where wisdom reigns there is no conflict between thinking and feeling. Carl Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis
The Taoists speak of one who has brought heaven down to Earth by uniting the two forces within the Zhenren: the complete, integral, or perfected human. Yin and yang are united within one person, who can shift between protection and connection, creativity and control, to fit what serves more wholeness, in the moment.
In our recent book Now Lead the Change: Repurpose Your Career, Future-Proof Your Organization, and Regenerate Our Crisis-Hit World by Mastering Transformational Leadership, we call them Transformational Leaders.
Transformers have wrapped their inner strength in relational softness, rather than have their inner fragility protected by brittle armor and defended by feisty fronting. They are truly Transformational Leaders whose masculine power enters the world through feminine presence, seeking to heal, repair, and regenerate through humble servant-steward relationships.
Such Transformational Leadership begins in our bodies. We have to embody this wisdom before it shows up in a reality. I do not underestimate the challenge of this given a world dominated by the Patriarchy Games, even if it is a masculine power grab wrapped up in shiny sustainable/ purpose-led/ conscious capital/ justice-warrior packaging. It took me the best part of 15 years to embody and embed this transformation in myself and our business.
This does not mean we don’t need to develop masculine self-reliance, structure, self-protection, and independence. Developmentally, it seems that we all do. But then we must keep on growing, integrating our mature masculine back into our feminine source. This way we live at our midline—the notochordal center from which our embryo developed—where our feminine softness is our default orientation, but now empowered by masculine strength.
The future is (more) feminine. The future is (more) relational. The future is (more) soft.
Transform your challenges and make change happen fast by working with Alison McAulay as your Embodied Executive Coach.
For Executives, Change Agents & Senior LeadersDISCOVER MORE