Expert Insight

Feminine Leadership – An Active Practice of Owning Your Presence Founder of Feminine Leaders, International Speaker, Diversity & Inclusion Advocate. As a Feminine Leadership Coach to female CEO’s, Executives, and Bu . Ela Staniak

When you hear a word 'FEMININE' do you instantly think of a: softer, weaker or more submissive quality?

Unfortunately, a general meaning of 'Feminine' has been misconstrued and is misunderstood in many circles due to 3 main reasons today:

  1. a high percentage of women faced (and still do) unfairness, lack of equality and discrimination in some workplaces and cultures

  2. many women felt (and still do) outnumbered by men in leadership roles

  3. many women made significant sacrifices to create career success, some of them being: health & wellbeing, family, intimate relationships.

These experiences left many women believing that to have authority and to be respected they needed to deny their femininity to a certain degree. 

In this article, I am intending to highlight 3 key elements of ‘feminine leadership’ which have proven to be fundamentally important for women to implement in their performance for purpose of succeeding on their journey to earning their rightful place at the boardroom table, earning their worth and to fulfilling their birth right to achieve whatever they want to achieve!

Statistics show that women are highly underrepresented in decision making in Australia. According to 2019/2020 WEGA report Women hold 14.6% of chair positions and 28.1% of directorships, and represent 18.3% of CEOs and 32.5% of key management personnel. More diversity through female voices at all levels of leadership will result in better decision making and achieving greater equitable outcomes worldwide.

Having had the privilege for over a decade to work with high calibre female leaders internationally athletes, millionaires, entrepreneurs, specialising in behavioural change and executive high performance coaching I witnessed time and time again powerful women who believed that creating a career comes with serious sacrifices. Having experienced a series of “lessons learned the hard way” myself I believe I am more than equipped to say that “some costs are just too high to pay”. Building a career to the detriment of one’s wellbeing or questioning the possibility of fitting a family into a busy lifestyle is not acceptable. It is astonishing the high percentage of women who tolerate feeling unconfident and undervalued. In these cases, Imposter syndrome seems to be the norm and feeling like a fraudster robs women of experiencing any sense of freedom, fulfilment or satisfaction.

Feminine Leadership is an active practice of ‘owning your presence’, as a powerful woman. Integrating ALL facets of one’s identity.  For this to occur one needs to ‘do the inner work’. 

Some of the most priceless benefits of having women at all levels of decision making are:

1.     Communication. Women tend to utilise the power of the process of communication rather than the outcomes in isolation. Masculine approach would seek resolution and drive the conversation towards faster outcomes. Feminine approach appreciates the process and doing so ignites opportunities for greater connection in communication, sets the tone for openness and vulnerability and can facilitate delivering difficult messages in a more nurturing way. Sometimes investing time into meaningfulness of the interaction allows for new unexpected outcomes to be born beyond expectations.

2.     According to Anne Cummings, a director of the 'Women in Leadership: Legacies, Opportunities and Challenges' program at Wharton Executive Education men tend to be more task-oriented while women take on a more interpersonal style of leadership. Therefore, a “masculine” style tends toward assertive and task-based behaviors, while a “feminine” style is more relationship oriented and “democratic.” Greater outcomes are created in environments where support and togetherness are walked within the culture.

3.     Financial outcomes. In a workplace study by McKinsey, 21% of businesses are more likely to experience above-average profitability if the workforce is gender-diverse. Diversity also improves productivity.

This conversation isn’t about who is a better leader, a man or a woman. This discussion is about highlighting women’s unique approaches to leadership which allow for unprecedented results. It complements the masculine without question.  It is only when we let go of old generational paradigms of stereotypical workplace and home structures that we will then see the real change take place. “You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

This leads me to the essence of todays article, the three key elements of feminine leadership which women all around the world are successfully utilising to lead and live ‘the ultimate life’:

1.     INTUITION. Every single person is born with a natural instinct, the gut feeling, however most people either choose not to listen to it, or ignore the power of it. Women truly do have a sixth sense. This is not a woo-woo practice as some may think. Albert Einstein once said “Everything is energy, and that’s all there is”. Those female leaders who are guided by and combine their instinct/ inner voice/ senses as equally with their intelligence, professional expertise and rationality are powerful beyond imagination. Having trust in the ability to make aligned decisions in any circumstances at any level of importance is an immense asset. Women who feel connected to their faith and have an unbreakable bond with various definitions of what we call the “high power” are more equipped to avoid running confusion, procrastination, avoidance or any other form of self-sabotage.

2.     HANDLING RESISTANCE. We know that what truly demonstrates excellent leadership is one’s ability to co-exist in uncomfortability. In fact, some of the greatest leaders seek the discomfort because they understand that overcoming challenges is the fastest way to succeed, while the general public moves away from discomfort. Most women have a significantly different approach to handling resistance than the majority of men do and it comes down to different approaches of taking ownership/ taking responsibility. As mentioned earlier the masculine approach would be to focus on cutting through the noise and driving initiatives towards achieving fast outcomes. Whilst this is a critical skill to have, it’s about what happens before the outcome is achieved which matters the most instances. Feminine leaders embrace the process, are more inclusive and engender trust environments and facilitate & respect all perspectives. This approach allows for people involved to feel included in the process.  It also prompts the benefits of learning and reflection which are great self-assessment and evaluation tools. This in no way extends the timeline of the process but it certainly changes the dynamic of the whole decision eco-system in a more inclusive way.

3.     COMMITMENT. It is a well known fact that women tend to have trouble with putting their own needs first. Not feminine leaders! Those women who prioritise their needs, honour their personal and professional boundaries and place equal value on themselves as they do on anybody else are women who demonstrate BEING leadership versus DOING leadership. These are the women who walk the talk. These are the women who own their presence. Why should you commit to yourself first? Because your level of wellbeing, your certainty and your passion are unspoken factors which people notice as soon as you enter the room. Your presence on its own is influential. When you own your power you educate those in your environment on how to treat you. Those female leaders who embrace their value report to have the resourcefulness, resilience and capacity to overcome any adversity and those are the leaders who we want to see as role models in our society for ourselves and for the next generations to come. 

Can you imagine a world where we see more women leading thriving businesses and global organisations.  Women who live by their values, honouring their boundaries and experiencing what it means to be successful in all areas of life? Imagine thriving workplaces built equally by men and women championing each other’s strengths and supporting each other in the pursuit of extraordinary results.

For women globally to be treated equally, and command respect to the same level as their male counterparts they must realise the importance of ‘doing the inner work’. Why?  Stigmatisation and existing inequalities are the current paradigm and women whether we like it or not have to work harder than men to be seen, heard, and understood at the highest levels of leadership.  The more stable, robust and integrated they are in their own skin will enable them to champion any situation, any paradigm.  My highest recommendation today to those women out there who know they have unlimited potential within them is this: invest in finding the right mentor, coach, accountability partner to take you where you want to go.  Getting the right support is your most priceless asset.  Anyone who has achieved greatness knows that having the right support is one's biggest strength!

Today, we are still in early phases of honouring and respecting the feminine aspects/qualities of leadership as much as we do the masculine and I for one feel privileged to play a part in inspiring the next generation of women who are ready to AWAKEN their potential, CHAMPION their brilliance and SUCCEED to unfathomable heights personally and professionally.


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