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Restoring our Feminine Leadership – from scared to sacred

An Evolutionary Perspective

Article for the 3rdi Magazine, June, 2011

I’ve been passionately on the path of supporting women in leadership for many years now and yet it’s only in the last few that I really started to feel the magic of the extraordinary collective journey we are on as women. When I began to see the relationship between what I had been experiencing in my own life and our evolutionary past and present history, so much fell into place. I felt strengthened by the rising energy of sisterhood that appears to be emerging all over the world and even more inspired to make a difference through my work with women. I dare to say that I think something is happening spiritually for us as women and that this rising sisterhood is emerging in part because we’re beginning to tap into a feminine source of wisdom that we lost connection with many years ago. Gradually, we’re restoring our connection with nature, with our natural feminine strengths and we’re restoring the essential value of our feminine leadership.

Looking back on the recent history of our evolution as women, it’s striking to me that so much change has happened in so little time – in the West at least. I’m referring to the relatively recent feminist movement and the suffragettes that initiated it. I am far from being an expert in history, which is perhaps why I hold some embarrassment about the time it took me to recognise just how many women risked their sense of safety to begin the reclamation of women’s rights, let alone how many women lost their lives when the patriarchy first took reign.

Courage played a big part in the process of leveling the playing field and perhaps too, rather ironically, did the ‘masculine’ energy of the women who rose to make a difference. I think we can see now, that rising to the challenge of creating equality with men, required a further sacrifice of the feminine, or at least the more receptive, ‘being‘ qualities of the feminine. To some extent, the fight for equal rights for women in the West, required an almost ‘aggressive’ force of power that met and mirrored the masculine reign of power that existed, so that women would be acknowledged for their ability to stand their ground alongside men. And many of us still experience the painful cultural remnants of that revolution. Remember the power suits and padded shoulder days? Many of the women that I coach now are exhausted by the relentless pressure of task achievement and the driven approaches required to succeed, that override their emotional and spiritual needs.

In another respect, we could see that the energy that rose in the process of women’s liberation was the ferociousness of the feminine that is likened to the mother bear intent on protecting her cubs. A serious force to be reckoned with.

Either way, these women of courage made a significant impact and created a tipping point that has since led to the freedom of choice that we now reap the benefits from, many of us not realising the intense effort that went into shifting the tides from our grandmothers’ experience. We’re indebted to these powerful women.

So, amazing progress has been made which must be celebrated and yet we’ve not arrived at a balancing destination yet. We are indeed privileged now (compared to many women in other parts of the world) with the right to vote, to earn equal (or nearly) pay, to own our own homes and to take leadership roles in society. And yet why is there still so much pain being experienced and why is there still a sense that the playing field is not yet leveled?

Part of this, I believe, has to do with our collective consciousness and the restless knowing we experience in our minds and hearts that many of our sisters and children, locally and globally, are still living severely suppressed, victimised and underprivileged lives. But even more obscure is the possibility that we have not yet cleared the collective memory of our ancestors’ pain and sacrifice and that as products of the ‘survival conditioning’ that ensued after such persecutions as the inquisition, we have in some way lost touch with our true feminine power and our resourceful spiritual nature. There seems to be a part of the ‘collective woman’ that is scared to show her true power, her true light and that does not feel safe to be her authentic self.

The point at which I first touched this impersonal pain in a personal way was back in the early 90’s when I was living in London and had stepped away from being an employee to risk being a business owner for the first time. I’d stepped into leadership in a literal and visible way, but I was a fledgling.

What I experienced (which I now understand to be part of the evolutionary process of development) is that having blossomed for many years in my career, I began to hit a wall, or perhaps my own glass ceiling. The new buds of leadership that wanted to emerge became confined by the apparent lack of nurturing around me. I found that my feminine values, my emotions, my personal creative expression somehow weren’t given space or value in the environment that I was in, even though I was an equal founder of the organisation and a credible leader.

Instead of seeing this as my own limitation and an opportunity for transformation, I let my fear get the better of me. Unconsciously, the old patterns of victimisation were beginning to emerge. I didn’t know how to tackle the situation with the right energy because I was operating unwittingly from the lop-sidedness of my own masculine energy. By the time I looked deeply enough to realise the pain I was in, the fear of expressing my power had taken root and I was exhausted from the repetitive internal process of striving to step up, hitting the glass ceiling and then pinging back into my emotional well of discomfort.

Eventually the pain of staying contracted in myself became too much and what happened  wasn’t so much an act of courage as an act of faith. There was a significant point in time when I was overcome by a kind of deep knowing in my heart that I had the power to change my experience. What to? I had no idea. But I knew the next step I needed to take and I can remember viscerally to this day the calm feeling of commitment to right-action that filled my body (despite my head’s judgement about the counter-cultural insanity of what I was about to do!)

And so it was that same day that I literally walked away from my own successful business with no sense of security for my future – not in a fit of victimisation but with the very clear knowing that this was a choice. The right choice.

When I look back to make sense of this experience, I can see that what arose in that moment of knowing, was my true power and a kind of ‘sacred awakening’ to the journey of restoring my own feminine leadership:

giving space and expression to the spirit of my authenticity as a woman,
being guided by my heart and following with my head,
integrating my emotions with my rational mind,
trusting my intuitive ways of knowing as well as the evidence,
valuing my ‘not-knowing’ as much as my knowing,
creating relationship before achieving the task,
allowing collaboration to weave with direction…

… and so the list goes on as does the iterative learning process. I am by no means a master in any of these but what I do recognise in hind-sight is the key role of my faith as I faced into the fear that was present. It wasn’t just faith in myself but in the greater field of life to support the heart-felt direction that I was taking. This was my transition from ‘scared’ to ‘sacred’.

What I also see in retrospect is that the ‘external’ glass ceiling wasn’t quite as thick as I’d first perceived and that some of my experience was a projection of my own fear (oh dear!). If I’d had the right support, I might have chosen to transform my leadership within that environment but at the time that support didn’t really exist.  And, life clearly had another agenda for me – to create that container of support for other women.

So that first experience of ‘awakening’ over 15 years ago propelled me onto my path of purpose which I have always seen as the restoration of the feminine – bringing the feminine back into balance with the masculine. It’s a path which is underpinned by my own ever-deepening journey of evolution and creative expression as a woman, constantly finding my way from ‘scared’ to ‘sacred’ in the process. It has fueled my passion and capacity for the humbling transformational work I’ve evolved with women over the last 8 years. In supporting women to get to know and truly value themselves, they begin to lead from their authentic power and can then bring their unique and impactful contributions to life, becoming transformational in their own leadership. For me the inner and outer journeys are totally inter-twined.

So zooming back out to the landscape of our collective evolutionary journey as women, I can perceive how I am, as we all are, connected in some way to a greater evolutionary process, that is about the force of mother nature coming back to balance; the rising heart of the feminine to restore life and course-correct for the sake of our global future.

I’m aware of women all over the world tapping into this inner source of renewed power, taking the lead to stand firmly and with heart, as if to say ‘enough… it’s time to do it differently, time for me to re-connect with my feminine values, to learn to show up vulnerably and authentically and give what I have to give without apology or sacrifice’. Women are beginning to gather in collaborative community in a multiplicity of ways, locally and globally, which we notice in our friendship circles, our women’s business networks, learning and development forums, social enterprises and in innovative new businesses such as 3rdi magazine!

Of course this source of ‘feminine’ power is not exclusively there for women! Many men are also feeling the yearning for this lost nourishment and tapping into this mysterious resource as we begin to collectively redress our human imbalances. This is an important recognition, as  the journey of restoration is not a fight for power between men and women or a devaluing of all things masculine. It’s about redressing the balance between masculine and feminine in both genders so that we can lead in healthy collaboration.

Ultimately it’s about all of us restoring ourselves by slowing down enough to access the ‘ground of being’ within us and listen to the inner wisdom we hold. And if we give ourselves permission to embody our feminine values, we’ll find the courage to express that wisdom authentically through our leadership too.

It’s clear how essential our collaboration with men is in bringing about a brighter future for all. But I have always held a deep sense that as women, with our biological connection to our feminine power, we have a primary leadership role to play, guided by an intuitive sense of responsibility perhaps, to restore ourselves first! Then from a place of genuine care and authenticity, we can step into our true feminine leadership and as natural role models, forge a new, evolutionary pathway ahead alongside our brothers.

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