Not that long ago, I was in the middle of a conversation with a trusted friend and colleague, about what was next for me, in the unfolding of my work and my business. On the wall across from where we were sitting, was the Declarationof Evolution by Intention. In a moment of uncertainty and what felt like struggle, I heard this voice saying to me: –If ever you’re not sure of who you are or what you stand for in the world just look up!”
And so it is. I believe that Evolution by Intention is a notion whose time has come and an essential aspect of its expression is what I have called: “A call to women to lead and co-create with men differently; (and) an invitation for men to relax into new ways of being…”
In light of this critical aspect, the question then becomes: what does it take for women to lead?
The Declaration of Evolution by Intention states that in order for me to contribute to the expression of the articulated intention, I must continue to become (among other things) willing and able to lead and co-create differently with men.”
From the first time these words were revealed to a number of men – most of whom were either clients or colleagues – this statement did not sit well. The conversation would heat up considerably, riddled with references to ‘why do you have to single out women’; ‘why do you make it gender specific’; ‘why can’t it just be that both men and women lead’. I found myself wondering how many other men would share this same response?
Very recently, I had the opportunity to witness an exchange about this very statement, amongst a group of women and one man. As l listened to the conversations unfold, this strange little thought wafted into my awareness. “Hmmm…”, I pondered, “I wonder what would happen to this heated exchange if I were willing to change the word ‘lead’ to the word ‘awaken’?” Were I willing to do this, the statement would read: “…an invitation to women to (awaken) and co-create differently with men…” etc. My Spidey senses tell me that were I willing to do that, much of the debate would cease.
What possible offense could anyone take at an invitation for women to awaken? What offense is seemingly impied in speaking of women leading without also referring to men? And what is called up within those men who hear this as leading without them….or instead of them?
Perhaps it becomes essential to stop and consider the expression of ‘lead’ or ‘leadership’ or ‘leader’. Nominalizations all, these code words are weighted down with the trappings of cultural conditioning and all that it entails. Gender distinctions. Power distinctions. Control distinctions. If you have no power, can you lead? If you’re a leader, are you in control?
Implied in the language of ‘lead/leader/leadership’ is the notion of being ‘at the front’, with presuppositions of others behind you, following you, going where you are going. Someone leads – others follow…sometimes blindly, sometimes under duress…and they are always behind.
Also implied in the language of lead/leader/leadership is the idea of going first, being at the head of or helm of something; notions of having the leverage to attract or compel others to come behind you…stand behind you…and go where the leaders goes. But through it all, the leader defines the direction, potentially the pace and the desired result.
The notion of lead/leader/leadership also has attached to it implications of movement…of life in flow, in some way. Notions of engaging…creating…manifesting…all of which then become models for others to engage, create, manifest.
What is so offensive about women being living expressions of all of these things?
As much as it may bring a sense of quiet and comfort to those who are enervated by the original statement of ‘… the call to women to lead…’, changing the nominalization to one of a call to women to ‘awaken’ is something that I am unwilling to do.
I am unwilling to sell myself, or any other woman I know or have yet to meet, down the river of invisibility and mediocrity. The thought of ‘Know your place!’ drifts into my awareness.
I am unwilling to speak differently so that those who are offended, afraid, agitated, aggravated or unnerved by such expressions can take comfort in my silencing myself and return easily to their own habits of thought and behaviour that allow them to move mindlessly through their repetitive but innocuous days. The thought of “Don’t upset people!” washes over me.
I am unwilling to remove from the statement the powerful implications for women to become leaders in their own lives; to step into their willingness and ability to move, engage, create, manifest and design their lives in ways that have meaning for themselves. From there, they stand and engage with others – their children, their parents, siblings, partners, clients, etc. – in ways that create the Space for meaning to occur in other places. The thought of “Don’t make waves!” drifts through my awareness.
It is not enough just to awaken. It is essential to engage and shape experience!
It is essential to embrace the intrinsic LeaderSelf, ready to explore the force of Creator that we are in shaping a reality of our choosing.
It is not enough to talk about, tell the story about, wish, hope and pray. It is essential to know that if not you, then who? If not now, then when? If not in this time and place, then what will it take to call you to take action in your own life?
The call that holds deep meaning for me is the call to women to awaken – to their own truth, to their own potential, to the courage that lays waiting for them in their bellies – AND ENGAGE! When women connect to this force of creation and manifestation, the world changes.
There are many women among us – perhaps in other parts of the world, perhaps next door to us, perhaps even in our own bedrooms – for whom it has become dangerous to know the truth of their own experience and to engage from that truth. It has become dangerous for many women to know what they know, and to allow that truth to be revealed through the expression on their face, the depth of a sigh or the snap of a head – let alone to speak it out loud to another soul.
What would happen in the world if the women who could speak – those who were willing and able to speak – refused to be silent? Not about the state of ‘global’ anything (i.e. world peace, poverty, clean water, global warming, etc) but about the state of their own lives. What would happen if each woman who could speak, who could put voice to the truth of her experience, were to do so?
What would happen if every woman who could live by the truth of her own experience began to do so – becoming unwilling to deny or betray their truth to themselves and to anyone else in their lives, including their parents, their partners, their children, their colleagues, their boss/employees, their clients? What would happen in our world if you and I were no longer willing to hide the truth of who we are – what we care about, what matters to us, what lights us up, what makes life worth living! – in order to be seen to be acceptable to our family, our church, our corporate colleagues? What would happen if we were no longer willing to surrender parts of who we are so that the people around us feel better about themselves?
This exploration will continue. In the spirit of Evolution by Intention and my commitment to engage with women to discover what it takes for us each to become the LeaderSelf in designing our lives, we’ll consider new forms of leadership. Not the traditional explorations of ‘the five steps to’ or the ‘seven keys for’ kind of leadership, but what it takes to shape YOUR world so that it feeds your soul! Notions of emerging expressions of leadership in living, organic collectives – and that’s what our lives are: networks of living, organic collectives that we call ‘family’ or ‘community’ or ‘work’. What we often forget to notice in these organic collectives is that we are not machines and we are not predictable. We are also able to transform in a thought – without struggle, without pain and without elapsed time or collapsed space.
One last thought: what I have noticed over the years is that powerful, provocative and generative change for men seems to be more available and accessible to them when the women in their lives engage in this powerful process first! This woman could be their sister, daughter or mother; it could be their friend, colleague, employee or boss; and/or it could be their life partner/mate/spouse. Nonetheless, for the vast majority of men that I’ve had the honour of working with, somewhere – before they became able to step into something new and more powerful for themselves – an important woman in their lives had done so first – creating a Space large enough for them to move into and wonder…can it be – for me, too?
This call to women to lead is not one that invites or demands surrendering of self or the ‘nobility’ of sacrifice on the altar of corporate or community service. This call to women to lead is to do so by being honest (with ourselves and others), clear, authentic and present to their own interests, needs, passions and concerns. This demands that we know who we are and, more importantly, who we choose to become and what it’s going to take for us to get there. We become living expressions of how else we might design our lives.
The essence of how women make a difference is neither sourced nor fueled by their desire or need to be seen as ‘leader’ but from their clear intention to design a meaningful life for themselves and the people they care about. In that moment, there is an inhalation – and the world expands.