The Feminine Revolution in Business Leadership

Meghan French Dunbar July 4, 2015

“The companies involved with Conscious Capitalism are very much aligned with what are traditionally seen as feminine values- love, care, compassion, nurturing, building relationships, holistic approaches, and win-win outcomes.”

Dr. Raj Sisodia, co-author of “Conscious Capitalism” and a thought-leader behind the Conscious Capitalism movement, along with Nilima Bhat, Founder of Sampurnah: The Wholeness Practice, are collaborating on a new book based on the premise that the prevailing leadership paradigm drastically overemphasizes masculine values such as hierarchy, command-and-control, and using “carrots and sticks” to induce desired behaviors. The authors posit that in order to be able to address the myriad social, environmental, cultural, political, and economic issues that face the world, a more holistic style of leadership based on the integration of feminine and masculine values is needed. Specifically, the most effective leadership styles in today’s highly evolved world are ones that come more naturally to women and incorporate qualities that are typically associated with feminine values, such as compassion, nurturing, and relationships. We had the chance to speak to the authors and asked them to expand on their theory.

 Can you provide us with a more in-depth overview of the concept that will be the subject of your upcoming book?

Raj Sisodia: Much of this was inspired by the work that I have done over the years with Conscious Capitalism. The companies involved with Conscious Capitalism are very much aligned with what are traditionally seen as feminine values – love, care, compassion, nurturing, building relationships, holistic approaches, win-win outcomes, etc. These cultural values are also leadership qualities, for both men and women. Furthermore, the companies that are successful also take into account the well-being of all of their stakeholders. There’s a trend toward a more holistic approach to leadership now.

At the same time, we’re seeing a lot of trends in our society, such as greater access to higher education, that are allowing women to finally have an opportunity to have an equal impact in the world. Women now outnumber men in the US workforce, and there are more women with college and graduate degrees. Nearly 60 percent of college students now are women, and they get higher grades. All of this is leading to the rise of more feminine values in society and a feminization of the culture that is about to happen in a culture that has been dominated by masculinity. It will be a journey to a more balanced and holistic approach that will integrate and blend the best parts of masculine and feminine. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a focus on the best parts of the masculine values, but rather on the negative masculine qualities like domination, aggression, competition, focus on winning at all costs, zero-sum games, and even viewing business and leadership through the metaphor of war. We need leadership today that is a true blend of the best of the mature masculine and mature feminine qualities for the overall well-being of mankind.

What does this theory look like in practice? What companies epitomize this?

RS: Southwest Airlines, with its stock market symbol of “LUV.” In fact, we were just talking to Colleen Barrett about the company’s culture of truly caring for people. There is a focus on caring for its employees, customers, suppliers, everybody, which is deeply embedded in that company.

Whole Foods is another example. It was founded on the question, “Can you build a company on love and care, instead of fear and stress?” The leaders of the company often talk about the feminine values of care and compassion. For example, when they make hiring and promotion decisions, they ask themselves about the person’s capacity for love and care.

Also, at The Container Store, the majority of the executives are women and they value and truly care about their employees, their customers, and all of their stakeholders. The company embodies a harmonious blend of mature feminine and masculine values.

Have you identified any strategies that help companies foster these feminine values that add such value to businesses?

Nilima Bhat: We have developed a framework for the book that is intended to help companies and people. It begins with the idea of presence as a way to tap into deeper wisdom, one’s higher self. From a place of presence, leaders are able to cultivate the three critical capacities of leadership: wholeness, flexibility, and congruence. Presence can be cultivated using a practice that we have developed.

If you look at all the crises in business today, they typically are crises of leadership and crises of consciousness and imbalance, which result from not coming from a place of presence and wholeness. If we want to have more conscious leaders, we need leaders to step in and become more self-aware and cultivate more presence – presence where you can step back and become more in touch with your core authentic self. That has a power, and that power is what we’re calling Shakti, which is the innate power within us. We then no longer need to play the traditional territorial power games or win-lose games in our leadership or in our teams when we come from a true place of power that comes from within – from a place of presence.

From there, you can intuitively sense whether a situation or leadership moment calls for a more masculine set of capacities or more feminine capacities, or simply a balance of both. Everything begins with stepping in and then stepping up – stepping up to a place where you can cycle between the masculine and feminine polarities and truly understand what will restore balance in a situation or what values are called for.

It’s critical to give people the language and the experience of understanding what it feels like to apply more masculine energy or more feminine energy in a situation. Giving people that experience sensitizes them. First, we need to understand that we have both of these energy areas within us to call upon, and, second, we need to know how to flex between the two as the situation requires. This is where conscious leadership is cultivated.

Finally comes congruence, i.e., being “on purpose.” Exercising the power of presence is a truly pleasurable experience that translates as stepping out into the world manifesting our purpose in a way that is unique to us – the sweet spot of where our meaning meets our passion.

“We need leadership today that is a true blend of the best of the mature masculine and mature feminine qualities for the overall well-being of mankind.”

Raj Sisodia, PhD, co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, Inc., is Franklin Olin Distinguished Professor of Global Business and Whole Foods Market Research Scholar in Conscious Capitalism at Babson College in Wellesley, MA. He has published more than 100 academic articles and eight books, including “Conscious Capitalism” and “Firms of Endearment.”





Nilima Bhat is founder of Sampurnah: The Wholeness Practice. She facilitates personal transformation through self-awareness, self-leadership, and self-empowerment. After a successful multinational career, she was certified as a yoga teacher and became an integrative medicine coach and spiritual guide. She is co-author of the book “My Cancer is Me.”

Social Entrepreneurship / Stakeholder Capitalism
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