Conscious Leadership

The Yin & Yang of Leadership

Written by Charlie Efford

Researchers have invested lots of energy in trying to identify the characteristics required for successful leadership. I have some concerns about the effectiveness of dissecting human qualities in this way, but I will leave that debate for later. Two questions did occur to me though:

  • How common is our understanding of good leadership?
  • Is our view changing?

Male qualities such as being assertive, competitive, having self-confidence, drive and being achievement focused have long been associated with models of good leadership.

Female qualities such as compassion, being sensitive to others, being intuitive and friendly have been far less associated.

It would be easy at this point to explore gender differences and look at why we have more male than female leaders in top jobs. Others have done this far more thoroughly than I can and point out that:

  • The “glass ceiling” is no longer a helpful metaphor to explain why women are underrepresented in top jobs. The structural barriers have been removed.
  • At a societal level – the qualities we look for in our leaders are typically associated with male rather than female characteristics
  • It is less desirable for women to behave like men when they are in positions of power

It seems that we have valued typically male qualities in our leaders and not surprisingly have looked to men to lead as a result.

I wonder if this view is changing.

I notice that people are far less respectful of authority and are simply not prepared to submit unquestioningly to those in power. A good friend of mine told me that when he is recruiting he interviews Boomers but those from Generation Y interview him! I think we still want leaders to create a compelling vision and lead us with purpose and conviction. I also think that more and more we want them to listen to us and win our hearts and minds too.  This takes me into the realm of transformational and conscious leadership. As people become more aware and more conscious of whom they are, they are starting to demand a different style of leadership.

At this point I started thinking about the Chinese concepts of Yin and Yang.

Yin represents typical female qualities such as readiness to receive, intuition, sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Yang represents typical male qualities of energy, work, achievement, drive and engagement. Importantly, the Chinese recognised that both these sets of qualities were required for successful existence. They recognised the natural cycles that flow throughout life and acknowledged that Yin and Yang will be dominant at different times. However, one cannot exist successfully without the other.

Using this model, leadership cannot be successful if it is all based on drive, energy and determination. To be complete it needs to be complimented by a degree of sensitivity, compassion and softness. Male and female qualities coming together.

I therefore wonder if the growing awareness that I see in the world, the increase in consciousness, is part of a broader movement to re-establish balance. If I am right then Conscious Leadership is about creating a healthy balance between male and female qualities in our leaders. It is about allowing our leaders to use their Yin and Yang energy together constructively to lead successfully.

About the author

Charlie Efford


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