Women and Emerging Futures

The next wave of my own evolution lies in exploring the potential of women to profoundly shape our world. Not only if women can but if women will...do what is required to make the difference. This demands redefining our notions of 'leadership' and reclaiming meaningful expression for women. To progress beyond historical notions of evolution through incremental change, we must redefine what it is to be human - and women are the key.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Willing and able to lead?

This ‘women and leadership’ conversation continues to roll around in my own thoughts, as well as appear regularly in my conversations with other women. What this tells me is that I’m on the right track, for my own evolution. Also, it seems that (given it’s a holographic universe) when I evolve, so do all those with whom I come in contact. Funny, that…..

The question is not so much ‘What does it take for women to lead?” and is much more one of ‘What does it take for women TO BE WILLING to lead?”. Those are not the same thing. The ‘willingness’ aspect is a critical one.

I don’t think there is any question that women are able to lead. (Have you tried being a mother lately????) In all of my 20+ years of working with women, I have been stunned by the degree of courage and strength that it takes for some of these women to continue living their lives. For example, it takes great strength and courage for a woman to get up every day and face a violent partner. And imagine what her life could become if she were to take that same degree of courage and strength and redirect it….and create something else. Considering the impact that would have on her life and the lives of her children, would that qualify as leadership?

So, for me, it’s never been about whether women are able – it’s always been about whether or not they are willing to be seen.

Are we willing to have what we really think become public? Are we willing to have our view of the world be tabled to be considered by others? Are we willing to begin to be living expressions of what holds meaning for us…when we believe that so many around us do NOT share our view of what is and – more! – what can be?

Willingness without the ability to deliver is not useful. I can want to fly myself to Hawaii but if I have no ability to do so (no technical skills, no training, etc), I create danger for myself. Conversely, I may have the skills to do so and my fear of water may make me unwilling to fly over the Pacific. Again, a combination that will not likely get me to Hawaii on my own!

Willingness AND ability are required – both present at the same time. When it comes to ‘leading/leadership’ (both nominalizations), I’m not so sure that women are willing to engage. Doing so would require that they be seen and heard; that their world view becomes public to some degree (even if only to their family – and that can be a big surprise!) and be held up to being dismissed, ridiculed and perhaps for some, even punished.

Leadership has a price – either way. There’s a price if we step up to the plate, and there’s a price if we don’t. Either way, it’s called ‘the quality of your life’. How do you like it so far?

Each of us lives our own life at varying degrees of intensity of expression. For some of us, passion is a frightening thing! It is a force that propels us into action, and has been known to get us into trouble when we least expected it. For others, passion is the essential nature of who we are, and to engage life without it leaves us wondering…why bother? Each of us has a force that moves inside us that calls us into action in some way. The problem (as I see it) is never about which is the best force, or the right force or the most productive force, it’s always about whether or not we pay attention to the call of that force that lives inside us – that is unique to us - and engage!

In the last 24 hours, I’ve had three distinct conversations with women who happen to show up in my life. In my first conversation, a woman who touches the lives of many, has chosen to be a stay-at-home, full-time Mom and recognizes this, in her world, as leadership. (I say ‘in her world’ because there are those who would not share this view.) For me, the interesting line of enquiry is not whether this meets the external standard for leadership, but much more about: what motivates her to call this leadership? Is it that she’s doing the ‘right’ thing in accordance with some moral code….or is it leadership because inside her, the force that drives her authentic and unique expression says “Stay home!”. Pure and simple. Which one it is will (I believe) determine her result.

Conversation Number 2: a woman who has a huge impact on the lives of other women recognizes that she moves through her world differently from one of her colleagues, who also has a huge impact on others. The question was then one of: is it useful for her to compare herself to the other? In my world, both are willing to step into leadership – and HOW they do that has variations in intensity. Their results will be tied to their willingness to be true to themselves – and engage the force as it is meaningful in their own lives.

And finally, conversation Number 3: a woman who LOVES the deep end of the pool! This woman is not a strong swimmer – this woman is amphibious! For her to NOT be in the deep end of the pool leaves her with a huge, unaddressed, unengaged force moving through her body. In our conversation, it became clear to her that if she does not honour the intensity of that force that moves inside her, she will become unwell – of body, mind and/or spirit.

Leadership is not about the force – it’s about whether or not we can recognize, claim and OWN the force that is the UNIQUE expression of who we are….and become a living expression of that force, right here….right now….in the moment. When we do this, we become a living expression of and permission for others to do the same. In that moment, we become leaders not of any particular way of moving through the world, but leaders for replicating how to discover meaningful lives and live them. Perhaps living a meaningful life would be a novel approach for us all……

One final thought: when it comes to being both willing and able to lead, if not me, then who? If not now, then when? How many of us are still waiting for the right time to begin living a meaningful life – and it never comes?

Breathing is good……


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