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Is Leadership Becoming a Dirty Word?

Written by: Emma-Louise Mason

This is an interesting question posed by someone who runs a leadership course for women working in leadership positions. She is a woman who personally identifies as having had a leadership career in both the public and private sector herself, so it gives you pause for her to ask this question: Is leadership becoming a dirty word?

I have to wonder, because in the traditionally accepted concept of leadership, it just might be.

As a leadership coach myself, I too have to go to great lengths to explain that the leadership training that I offer doesn’t actually cover the traditional leadership topics you might expect in such a course. That if you want to get something out of it you have to leave the stilettos and the red power suit at the door. Because, otherwise, as women, something feels amiss.

You see, just like most other leadership coaches supporting women in the workplace, I’m driven by the belief that to have a more ethical, compassionate, collaborative, and sustainable society we need more women at the decision-making table.

Women who manage their energy, not their time. Women who access their natural sources of power to share their power with rather than have power over.

Women who stand firmly in their feminine energy.

But I worry that as long as we tie our success to the traditional concepts of leadership, we’re fighting a losing battle.

The current leadership construct is built on the same social conditions as power and authority which disempowers and excludes women. You just have to look through the history books to see that women have been considered lesser than, untrustworthy, and incapable for a very, very long time.

But it wasn’t always like this.

There was a time women were revered for their magic. The time when our ability to nurture and nourish was at the heart of our communities. When our powers of intuition and manifestation were honoured and ritualised. When our menstrual cycle was celebrated as we accepted the negative energy of others and then purified it for the benefit of all.

This is how women showed up as leaders. Deeply connected to the ebbs and flows of Mother Earth. Understanding and appreciating her unique relationship with the natural order of things. Understanding that at the heart of our human experience is the connection and relationships we form as we care for and nurture ourselves and others. Creating beauty and safety in spaces, being magnetic and whole as she heals those around her.

And so, as we see leadership literature being filled with words like vulnerable, empathetic, and collaborative - areas where we should feel right at home - those qualities are the opposite of what we’ve traditionally been taught a leader should be. Yet, vulnerability, empathy, and collaboration are the core of who we are.

It’s what we offer when we stand in our feminine power. When we choose to lead from our true nature.

So, for me the questions remain.

If this is what the world needs right now from those brave enough to step up and lead, why are women still being excluded? If this is how women are naturally in the world, then why are their traditional roles still seen as less worthy of stature or status?

As long as we tether ourselves to outdated constructs of being we limit our capacity to truly make a difference.

Our impact will come not only when we have the numbers in the boardroom, but when those numbers reflect women doing leadership as only women can do.


Originally published in Issue 3 · May/June 2021 issue of SOULACY.

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