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Is Feminine Wisdom Superior to Masculine Wisdom in Leadership?

September 24, 2011
My friend and colleague Alan Harpham from England, challenged something I wrote with his customary graciousness. I assure you Alan, I never intended to say feminine wisdom was superior – only that we don’t know enough about it and it’s role in wise leadership.
“Whilst I have total sympathy with your mission and would agree more women in places of power would be most helpful – I do think you have one thing slightly wrong.  I think it is just wisdom that makes for great leaders, a mixture of masculine and feminine with males listening to their female side and females listening to their male side.  Neither male nor female wisdom is better than the other a balanced combination could be best.”
I agree. A leader uses a mix of wisdoms – both masculine and feminine – neither is better than the other and an integrated combination is the only way we will discover viable pathways through much of the current mess.
The only problem is that if undeveloped or unrecognized, our feminine wisdom can’t be fully expressed in balance with our masculine. I speak with women, and men, every day who talk about setting aside, hiding, or mistrusting their sensitive, caring, deep feeling side – their feminine wisdom – when they are at work. Tears of sadness often soften their eyes as they speak.  Leaving out or denigrating this vital, beautiful, and natural part of themselves doesn’t feel good.
In the past I certainly put a tough layer over my compassionate heart and intuitive awareness – and sometimes I still do! Early on I told myself that to make a difference I needed to adopt and develop a predominately masculine style of speaking and producing. While these are important skills, I forgot about the power of my feminine wisdom as the essential core of the power in my leadership.
The crazy thing is that when I tried to be a man I was always feeling “not enough” and trying to be “more.”  In retrospect, I was out of personal integrity and reduced my influence. It feels painful to recall. Today, I cultivate, nurture, and respect my feminine wisdom and feel more stable, confident, and effective in everything I do.
How do you stand aside from your feminine wisdom? And – in dialogue with Alan – how do you balance, integrate, and increase your capacity to access both your feminine and masculine wisdom to be the wise leader that you are? I’d love to know.
3 Comments leave one →
  1. robert klass permalink
    September 24, 2011 12:12 pm

    Dear Karen, I am very interested in your subject, and I have been for decades. In that time, I’ve known quite a few relationship experts, new age wannabe gurus and lots of others. (I believe we have a number of mutual friends.)

    I have rather mixed feelings when I see a question like the one that you posed. My first response is that the answer is “yes,” feminine wisdom is superior masculine, but, then, I’ve always thought that women are superior to men. One of my teachers and friends pointed out to me that the fact that I believed in the superiority of women made me a bigot, something I told myself I wasn’t with all of the phony self-righteousness I could muster. The question also assumes we can recognize feminine and masculine wisdom when we see it and are able to differentiate between the two.

    My current position is that men and women are complenentary to each other (and, hopefully, also complimentary), and that’s the way it should be. The entire question about gender superiority has a way of perpetuating the supposed war between the sexes rather than recognizing that we are all in this together, we are all on the same team.

    Here’s hoping you’re having a nice weekend!

    • October 1, 2011 7:07 am

      Robert – well said! In a way it’s a false dichotomy – only useful in self discovery and making the kind of clear distinctions that help us to see what we don’t yet see in ourselves and each other. From the lens of feminine wisdom there actually is no hierarchy or “superior” – only an interconnected circle of relationship. (Even though we may act that way sometimes! :)) The women and men that I enjoy are employing their feminine wisdom for all of life – never for domination. Won’t it be great when we all choose to source our lives from wisdom each and every day?

  2. September 26, 2011 10:25 am

    I think it’s a fascinating topic. For example, my husband expresses a good amount of feminine wisdom mixed with his masculine wisdom. I love watching how he restores classic cars; there are times to pry and pull and times to gently, gently rub out paint, or finesse 50 year old interior. He has a reputation for being outstanding with restoration, and I know it’s because he employs a full range of wisdom. It’s about what discerning what is required, and having the grace to apply it.

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