How to Add More Feminine to Your Leadership

Lori Hanau July 5, 2016

But in our Shared Leadership framework, wholeness is one of the four key pillars. As inhabitants of today’s chronically bifurcated world, the idea of wholeness can be fundamentally transformative. We have a lot to learn by focusing on our inner work, the work of coming into balance with the seemingly contradictory energies and identities that reside within us.

This article is a call for the opening of our individual and collective consciousness through exploring wholeness within ourselves, our leadership, and our businesses.


“Psychologically, we all have both feminine and masculine polarity within us,” explains Nilima Bhat, coauthor of “Shakti Leadership” (with Raj Sisodia). In the yogic tradition, “Shakti” is the feminine principle of divine energy. “Shakti Leadership” evokes a feminine archetype of leadership that is generative, cooperative, creative, and empathetic. “In leadership especially, the masculine pole — the one with more overt power, more aggression, more confidence, focus, clarity, more strength — is valued,” Nilima says.

Our collective and complementary feminine values have become unrecognized and unvalued. As a result, says Nilima, we have a “huge imbalance in systems, because all systems are energies that need to be in balance and in dynamic equilibrium. If the energy of a system or a leader is only playing to the masculine side to the neglect of the feminine, of course that is going to be a dysfunctional system. It will fall into disequilibrium.

“It is very clear this is a hypermasculinized world. And that is the problem. The masculine isn’t wrong; it’s just hyper. This whole journey is about knowing how to develop the neglected feminine and bring our system into an equal balance.”

This balance or state of wholeness will come through opening to and embracing our feminine qualities in addition to our masculine qualities. “The patriarchy has wounded both women and men because it has left us as split beings,” Nilima says. “In the process, the system has lost vital feminine energy needed for balance and sustenance. Therefore, we are on a downward spiral as a planet and as a global culture.”


Everywhere we turn, the groups we are working with are being shaken and stirred. In the political landscape, in the workplace, and in community, disruption and discomfort are at hand. At the same time, more conscious companies are placing a greater emphasis on group wisdom and shared power. More value is being placed not only on leadership development, but also on human development in the workplace. However, the consciousness of wholeness is relatively invisible in the workplace and in society at large. Nilima explained it this way: “Coming to business, we need to access something we don’t even know we’re not in touch with.”

Few would disagree that what we are facing today is a crisis of consciousness. To paraphrase Einstein, we know that our problems cannot be solved from the same level of thinking that created them. From Nilima’s view, “If we have to solve the crisis of consciousness of our times, we are going to need leaders. Because we do not have leadership that is addressing this, it is also a crisis of leadership.”

Therefore, “Shakti is the rising tide that is lifting all boats. Shakti is rising in the system because this is what systems do; they evolve towards balance and equilibrium until that level lasts and it’s time to evolve again.” In other words, as we come into balance within ourselves, the system comes into balance. By intentionally cultivating the feminine qualities that live within each of us, and leading consciously from a place of wholeness, we begin to transform the larger systems of which we are a part.


A core belief in our work at Global Round Table Leadership is that we are brilliant far beyond our current imagination — that we are filled with genius, and already know what to do, if we are willing to see. A shift of consciousness occurs when we trust that we are fundamentally whole, not fractured. As difficult as this can be, it is an essential condition for conscious leadership.

Leadership is both a product and a driver of contemporary culture. As leadership adapts to meet the needs of the times, it simultaneously shapes how we see our problems, our solutions, and ourselves. In Nilima’s words, “Energetically we are very intelligent. As each of us resets the balance within our own body and mind of consciousness and energy or masculine and feminine polarity within each of us, so will the system of which we are a part.”

Resetting that balance is an inside job. Wholeness is already within us, but tapping into it means reaching beyond our cognitive minds alone into our heart, our body’s wisdom, and our spirit for the fullness of our intelligence. The consciousness to evolve is a uniquely human capacity, but it usually doesn’t happen until we care to change. The courage to care is the spark that ignites our integrity — that drives us to grow, open, and blossom into higher form, even as doing so can be highly uncomfortable, disorienting, and scary.

Through our caring and ignited integrity, we have greater capacity to see our blind spots and habitual ways of operating with honesty and clarity, dropping any shame we may be carrying. We are able to see our own direction for strengthening and softening, integrating the masculine and feminine energies within us and organically becoming whole.

To tap into your wholeness, begin with the work of self-awareness and reflection, feeling into where you are in balance and where you might be behaving in ways that are out of balance. When are aggression and control your automatic ways of leading? As a leader, when are you true to what you value, like being thoughtful as you listen, or saying “I don’t know” even though your team might see that as weak?

This is not always easy work; it demands humility and courage. But the moment the awareness of our own imbalances comes around, the stewardship of wholeness takes hold. Sometimes the desire to grow comes out of that awareness and sometimes it fuels our self-awareness, enabling us to suddenly recognize what we couldn’t see before; and sometimes the desire is to run to the nearest television show to distract ourselves. When we choose focus over distraction, we begin to cultivate a wholeness that extends from our being into our teams, our work, and our world.

As Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet said, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”



Shared Leadership is the practice of bringing out the greatest capacity in everyone by empowering everyone in a group to be responsible for and engaged in the high function of the whole. This is a fundamental shift in how we understand and apply power and leadership.


We recognize each other and meet as equals in our humanity — what exists at the core of us, before relating through roles, status, and expertise.


We relate as equal learning partners in full acknowledgement of what we can contribute and learn from each other.


We are fully ourselves, wherever we are. We are also conscious of the concentric relationship and impact of self to group, group to goal or mission, mission to the world, and the human world to all of life.


We know more together than any one of us does on his or her own. We cultivate the collective wisdom of the group by honoring our diversity, respecting and trusting the natural gifts and talents of each and every person.




Put up your favorite art, photos, or inspirational quotes. Make sure to gaze out a window regularly to look at the sky or the trees around you. Even better, take your breaks outside to balance a culture of sterility and autopilot.


Take a couple of deep, slow, intentional breaths before you walk through the door at work, and as you cross the doorway into meetings throughout your day. Feel your feet on the ground. Roll your shoulders back slightly, opening up the chest cavity. Smile inwardly to yourself. Make sure your energy is grounded and calm, not scattered and intense, to balance a culture of stress.


Eat with people, not at your computer. Make sure to connect through your humanity, not just through your roles and responsibilities. Take breaks with colleagues — and don’t talk about work! — to balance a culture of hyper-productivity.


Try to be more curious than certain. Invite input and feedback to balance a culture of certainty.


Make room for silence to enter your mind, your conversations, and your team meetings to balance a culture of busyness.

For the Top 10 Practices for Tapping Into Your Wholeness, please visit our blog at


Lori Hanau is dedicated to supporting shifts in consciousness, communication, and community in the workplace through experiential learning. She founded Global Round Table Leadership, where she works co-creatively to coach, guide, facilitate and steward individuals and teams in opening to their innate brilliance, cultivating the soul of their organizations and their work. She is faculty and Co-Chair at Marlboro College Graduate and Professional Studies and on the board of Social Venture Network.

Claire Wheeler is a freelance consultant and co-conspirator for sole practitioners, community-based businesses, and nonprofits. As principal of Rework, her passion is to translate the creative genius of people and organizations into systems and structures that make work make sense. She finds power in prose and splendor in spreadsheets.

Social Entrepreneurship / Stakeholder Capitalism
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