Letting Go of the Need to be in Control

Feminine leadership is defined as the leadership style of the 21st Century by some. So what is it, where can I get some and can you remind me why I need it again?

Femininity is the operating system of twenty-first century progress. Women—and the men who can think like them—are creating a future we’ll all want to inhabit.
— John Gezerma, Athena Doctrine

Why?  Because we live in a world that is increasingly global, interconnected, social, transparent and interdependent. This new world needs long term solutions, collaborative strategies and joined up thinking.  These traits are more than a simple preference. In fact it would appear they are more in the needs/must category.  So the traits/skills/characteristics that operate well in this new joined up global economy include:

  • Listening,
  • Communicating,
  • Collaborating,
  • Adapting,
  • Promoting a positive culture where purpose and profits co-exist,
  • Inclusive decision-making and
  • Nurturing of relationships.

I get excited about this and reflect on the leadership style of most of the wonderful leaders I know.  Because I suspect (perhaps naively) that this style is the preferred (if not yet default) leadership style for both men and women. It's in our nature to want to connect with others, to live harmoniously and happily and support others in their journey from good to great.

Masculine leadership

Masculine leadership (not necessarily only the domain of men) is defined as something that's a top down hierarchical leadership structure, with the boss knowing where the organisation is going and everyone else following - playing their part , just like cogs in a machine. In fact our military forces work this way, police departments and judicial systems, academia, governments and many large corporates are structured around this leadership model. Sometimes even a masculine leadership model is more adversarial in style, which in turn promotes competition, silos and isolation.

Binary model

I acknowledge that this is a binary model. There are many ways to lead and linking leadership styles to gender stereotypes is a narrow way of thinking and continues to reinforce and perpetuate stereotypes. The differences between the way men and other men think or lead, and the differences between the way women and other women think or lead, are probably equally as great if not greater than the differences between the way men and women lead.

But I suspect it helps us to reflect on other options when we acknowledge that another way might just work.  It helps us to step into the realm of leadership more naturally when we understand that there is more than one style in which to do it.  Just as we now understand with the help of Susan Cain and Quiet, that introverts make great leaders too, it also helps those who are less adversarial and more inclusive in style, to see that in fact we might be ideal leadership material as well.

Letting go of ....... and feminine leadership

If you've seen the Ambition Revolution value model and heard me speak, you may remember that I talk about letting go.  In order to lead effectively there are a bunch of things you can/need to let go of. In fact to embracing and embodying confidence around your ability to Step Up, Speak Out and Take Charge ironically requires letting go of:

Where do you see yourself? And where do you need to let go?

  • the need to do it all (from Operator to Dreamer)
  • the need for approval or to be liked (Dreamer to Schemer)
  • the need to do things perfectly (Schemer)
  • the need to know everything (Achiever)
  • the need to be right (Go Getter)
  • the need to be in control (Revolutionary)

Not surprisingly yet somewhat counter-intuitively,  letting go of the need to be in control is required of successful leaders - although it's a far more common trait in feminine leadership. Remember the inclusive, collaborative characteristics where people are valued and relationships are nurtured?  Yep, that's right - this is part and parcel of a feminine leadership style - including letting go of the need to be in control.

Because there are so few role models of leaders doing this well it's still challenging to understand. Our default mode and "ideal" will likely be the masculine leadership model that we see reinforced in the media, on television, in the movies and in baby boomer businessmen who still dominate our boardrooms around the globe. (Self disclosure - I too am a Boomer - but have hopefully seen another way).

Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.
— Sarah Blakely, Spanx

Feminine leadership makes leadership more accessible and desirable

Identifying leaders who operate this way so that you can learn from them is important.  You can read last month's blog on finding female leader role models.

Reading aboutalternative models of leadership might also help you see that it's quite within your grasp to lead - where previously you had considered your style might not be strong enough, or direct enough.

So as you do the work in preparing yourself for you next jaunt or dabble into leadership (whether that's people leadership, project leadership or thought leadership) don't forget to consider how else you might get best results.  Leadership doesn't always mean leading front the top or the front. It can also mean leading from within and encouraging others to embrace personal leadership.

Vive la révolution!


#LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition

#CreateaCareerThatCounts #makeabiggerdifference


  •  I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and art of amping smart and savvy.
  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game.
  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so



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