I have written a couple of posts related to gender and leadership recently (Jan 29th and February 12th). I find myself drawn back to the same topic today. There are several ideas or themes that bring me back:

* I believe very strongly that we suffer from a critical absence of real leadership today. Our current situation is framed as an economic / financial crisis, but I believe it is actually a crisis of leadership. And I have come to believe that we do not simply need different leaders, but a different way of leading.

* I have been thinking more and more about the different leadership tendencies of men and women. This is at least partially due to my participation in a program involving Emergenetics and some subsequent conversations regarding the different thinking style tendencies of men and women.

* I also see us approaching a point in time where women are going to be moving into senior leadership positions in far greater numbers. So...if they choose to, women can play a significant role in redefining what leadership is for our communities, our organizations and our society.

* A friend of mine shared an article with me by Judy Sorum Brown, called Welcoming the Feminine Dimensions of Leadership. It is a few years old now, but this article really resonated with me considering the other things that had been bouncing around in my head.

I think that reading and thinking about this article by Brown helped bring some clarity to my thoughts on this issue. Men and women lead and behave in any number of ways for any number of reasons. Gender is but one dimension of our social identity and the impact that our gender has in shaping our lives is probably more about us and our environment than it is about the gender itself.

But there are feminine characteristics or attributes and masculine characteristics or attributes (whether they show up in a man or a woman) and if we want to have leadership that is balanced, sustainable and whole...it would seem important to make sure that both sets of characteristics were integrated.

In the article, Judy Sorum Brown provides a list of complimentary characteristics:

Feminine+Masculine

Partnership+Competition

Inquiry+Advocacy

Ritual+Rigor

Curiosity+Certainty

Wondering+Knowing

Appreciating+Judging

Accepting+Asserting

Listening+Talking

Nurturing+Challenging

Stories+Analysis

Humanities+Sciences

Empathy+Objectivity

Creating+Building

Opening+Choosing

Attention+Intention

I really like this list and I think it helped clarify some of my points regarding this set of issues. What we are really talking about is having a balanced and healthy way of leading. This is a list of things that all can be valuable, but most importantly the masculine and feminine perspectives are complimentary. We are going to be better off if both are a part of the equation. In her article Brown asks a very important question:

How do we create conditions in which both the feminine and masculine perspectives are valued, celebrated, and heard?

I think that this is an important question and a very big question. We may be able to agree that all of these traits are valuable, but do we do a good job of seeking out, rewarding and promoting all of them? Or just some of them? Remember we are talking about things that are complimentary to each other, so our focus should be balance. In your organization (or family, or congregation, or community) is listening taught, supported, rewarded and promoted? What about empathy? Nurturing?

Regardless of the gender of the people involved, I believe that a critical part of our way forward will be bringing more balance to leadership. Love to know what you think.

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