COVID-19 has placed demands on people and organisations in almost all aspects of their daily lives. From going online (transforming digitally) to working remotely, and – perhaps most critically – demanding a change in consciousness from leaders across the globe.
The pandemic has not only irrevocably shifted the ‘employee experience’, but also highlighted our need for a more holistic and integrative focus on the life experience.
The world yearns for feminine leadership
As vaccines start to roll out, people continue to grapple with fears for their health and the health of their loved ones. Simultaneously, they are trying to cope with the financial stress that the pandemic has caused, and are worried about salary cuts and job security.
While this stress is understandable, the greatest impact of the pandemic has been on people’s mental and psychological well being. Apart from being in enforced isolation – including facing up to one’s inner self – the emotional strain of contracting the virus and trying to balance family dynamics with everyone being thrown into the same space to work, study and relax, has brought its own challenges.
Additionally, people are having to deal with the immense grief of being unable to say their final goodbyes to loved ones who are dying due to necessary COVID-19 protocols.
These realities have been challenging and painful, but they have also presented a powerful healing opportunity for an unclouded perspective on what the world needs. It is clear that the world and its people yearn for leaders who demonstrate compassion, care, inclusion and empathy while being courageous and resilient.
The yin and yang of feminine and masculine leadership styles
What does this mean for leadership styles and how leaders can remain relevant and navigate teams through this perfect storm?
Much has been written around the impactful and relevant manner in which woman leaders have guided their countries in managing the pandemic. From Germany, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, to New Zealand, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, and Taiwan, led by President Tsai Ing-wen, globally, woman leaders have been recognised for their humanistic and transformational style of leadership. This leadership style is more consensus-building, caring, open and inclusive as well as more likely to encourage collaboration and participation by others.
The majority of woman leaders tend to display compassion through bonding and nurturing styles. The debate remains open as to whether this is the result of a natural maternal instinct or due to how girls are socialised, but the outcome is generally the same: Woman leaders show up by displaying feminine leadership traits such as caring for the development and wellbeing of others, seeing long term vision and holding psychologically safe spaces for other people.
Research has shown that when women join leadership teams, there is an increase in leadership qualities such as empathy, compassion, communication and collaboration, which then become part of the DNA of those organisations.
Isabel Guerrero, a former VP at the World Bank and now the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Imago Global Grassroots, says: “Studies about the characteristics of female leaders show that the feminine values cooperation over competition; consensus over control; teamwork over hierarchy; intuition and sensing more than the rational.”
It is important to remember, though, that feminine and masculine leadership traits are equally important and inherent in both male and female leaders. The working world has historically positioned masculine leadership traits as more revered, recognised and equivalent to successful outcomes, while simultaneously positioning feminine leadership traits as weak and less relevant or required in the working world.
The current turbulent and challenging times merely underscore the importance, power and relevance of feminine leadership traits as commanding an equal magnitude of respect and appreciation, both within and outside the working world.
Pivoting forward with unifying and nurturing balance
Nelson Mandela shared deep wisdom when he said: “Compassion binds us to one another – not in pity or patronisingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” Each human has an inherent reason for being, namely to care for each other and our world with all of the gifts we have to offer.
On International Women’s Day, may we be reminded to honour the relevance of our natural feminine leadership traits and their power to unify people precisely when the world is yearning for such leadership. May male leaders be equally open to stepping into their nurturing light, by exercising and building their feminine leadership muscles. This year, let’s take a more active approach to nurturing our feminine leadership traits, and developing strong women leaders in all sectors.
The era of feminine leadership styles taking their place alongside masculine leadership styles to deliver a holistic leadership solution has arrived. May we all collectively embrace our authenticity, to develop a new leadership style that isn’t bound by traditional thinking, but rather builds on the strength of diversity.
By Varsha Morar