The number of women in leadership positions is (slowly) increasing – women now run one in four of Australia’s biggest companies – but so is the number of women on the brink of burnout and struggling with stress.
When women came into the professional workforce decades ago, we came into a structure designed by men, for men, and many of us fell into the trap of leading like men, rather than tapping into the power of feminine leadership.
As women, we are intrinsically different to men. Our bodies go through many seasons and cycles, from menstruation to menopause, and everything between and beyond. Our bodies impact our mood, our emotions, our thoughts – everything about our lives, whether we want them to or not.
Men don’t have these systems within their bodies. This doesn’t mean they don’t have their own struggles, but they are very different to ours.
We can try to control our bodies through diet, nutrition, exercise, hormones and even denial of what’s happening.
But we haven’t ever been taught how to handle our inner systems, our emotions and our natural processes, so that we can really show up powerfully in the world as working women. Because in our traditional roles, we didn’t have to suppress many of these things.
A workforce designed for men
When women stepped into the workforce, they had to fit in to the rules designed for and created by men. Even though women stepped into the business world willingly, resentment has built as they’ve slowly had to strip away their true essence.
When someone is trying to fit into a stereotypical role of how they think they should be, it means they’re making sacrifices about who they truly are from a biological standpoint and this will impact other aspects of their lives.
Forcing ourselves into a mould created for men means resentment builds, and no matter how hard we work it never feels like enough.
For men, who historically had to play the role of provider, they’ve learned to cut off their feelings and emotions in the workplace. But for women, the ability to disconnect from our internal emotions is a much newer concept, and it’s harder for us to block our feelings, without suppressing who we really are.
The feminine essence
Every person carries within them a mix of masculine and feminine principles, but I believe the world needs more of the feminine.
The ability to assess a situation quickly through feelings and emotions is the gift of the feminine principle.
The issue is that our emotions have been suppressed, denied and demonised to such an extent that the current paradigm in leadership is to ‘just do it’ and to lead with our heads, without actually seeing if other parts of the human system can be used to make decisions.
Feminine essence is about understanding our body wisdom and trusting our instincts.
When a woman can learn to rest in her body, feel her emotions and use her inner wisdom and instincts to make decisions, she becomes powerful and activates her true potential.
This concept of whole self or embodied leadership allows women to truly let go of old conditioning and find their unique way of operating, without denying their needs in their professional and personal lives.
The antidote to burnout
By the time we reach a point of burnout, we’ve probably been coping with symptoms for years that have been missed or ignored.
Burnout is the result of external and internal forces – it’s not just about our environment, but also what is happening inside our bodies.
As women, we often struggle to create boundaries and listen to our own internal compass, which alerts us to when things aren’t right, informed by our body intelligence and emotions. This is what has been denied in our current leadership paradigm.
Yes, everyone is talking about emotional intelligence, but they’re missing the importance of body intelligence and understanding our whole systems.
When we step into body awareness, emotional intelligence and understand our nervous system language, we are able to listen to and meet our needs at the deepest level. This not only eradicates burnout before it becomes an issue but also heals other aspects of life.
Tips for embracing a more feminine approach to leadership:
- Stop trying to compete with male colleagues by leading ‘like a man’. You have unique qualities and so do the men around you. Yes, the system needs to change so that women are more highly valued in the workforce, but first we need to appreciate what a gift leading like a woman truly is.
- Avoid Band-Aid solutions to address your burnout or exhaustion and look for deeper issues to understand what’s really happening. It might be a confronting experience and shake your life up, but a year from now you’ll be in your full power.
- Look for support. You can’t do this work alone, you need the support of someone who has worked with other leaders to help them step into their body and emotional intelligence, and can bring a new perspective that you can’t otherwise see.