Preamble: As you read this post, please be mindful that I believe both men and women, The Masculine and The Feminine, are required to lead for and into a future we need and one we must pursue. This post, and many others, emphasize The Feminine and women, because it and we have been missing from the leadership equation in business. Had men been missing, I hope and trust I would advocate for The Masculine. Why business? In developed countries business is a tremendous lever for change. For profit enterprises have both a sense of urgency and the resources to lead a paradigm shift, not to the exclusion, however, of government, not for profits, and other organized communities.

The Sign Reads


Point 1.

Emerging global conditions are like a neon sign flashing warnings of what’s required on the road ahead. It reads PARADIGM SHIFT.

What are the conditions behind this sign?

  • Failing governments
  • Failing economies that don’t respond to methods previously used to “fix” such problems
  • Extreme weather conditions (This one is just beginning.)
  • Out of control U.S. health care costs that we cannot fix
  • Extinction/depletion of species and natural resources that will not and cannot be restored (Been fishing lately? Catch much?)

What’s called for is a BIG SHIFT – not a small adjustment, or a tweak, or a stronger pull of some previously used lever. These moves are akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Paradigm Shift

The shift involves our assumption that

Growth is good.

Bigger is better.

More is desirous.

A bigger house. A bigger car. A bigger business. A bigger economy. Bigger breasts. Erection doesn’t last long enough? (Longer is the time version of bigger.) We can fix that too. Caution though – 3 days is too much. See your doctor.

Grow the economy. Grow your business. If your children aren’t tall enough give them growth hormones. And have you seen the growing girth of the population? Bigger portions please.

Because, after all, bigger is better. Growth is good. It’s the natural way of things, or is it?

To get bigger we are borrowing against a future that won’t exist, at least not in the way we picture it, because of the very fact that we are borrowing against it.

If we don’t make the shift voluntarily, and we may not, IT will make us. Nature has a way of balancing herself.

Why the Shift Isn’t Happening

Point 2.

People who come to power in the current paradigm are least likely to see the assumptions underlying said paradigm. They are not bad people, just fish swimming in the water. They are unlikely to see that their assumptions, around which they build their lives and the systems that govern their lives, are not givens or natural laws, such as gravity, but conditions they have created. They don’t see that these created assumptions build a story. It is a story those in power, the ones who get to create the prevailing belief systems, tell themselves about the world, that results in a world about which they tell themselves that story. For the story creators to see these assumptions would be like fish seeing the water in which they swim. They don’t. It simply was, is and always will be. They know nothing else.

Why Women Can Create the Shift

Point 3.

Women are not currently the driving power in business. It is not our story, so we have a vantage point to see the assumptions on which the story is built. Some of us see other plausible assumptions and the stories they can create. We’d like to change things. How do I know? We asked. (Jane Perdue is my partner in seeking answers from women.) We did the research. We surveyed over 200 professional business women, most of whom work in large national or multinational corporations, to find out why they aspire to positions of power – to what end? Their top two priorities are “financial security for my family” not financial growth or riches, and “to lead change and make the world a better place.”

The Paradox of Power


Point 4.

It’s tricky. Women have to come into power in a system that does not reflect the way we think about or use power, and simultaneously we have to create the shift to a new way of thinking about and using power. We have to know how to push from both sides, as pictured in the broom with two handles. Then there is the question of whether we will use our power to change the game, the rules and the desired outcomes or whether we will we be co-opted along the way? The story that holds the answer to this question has yet to be told.

Here are my recommendations for creating a story we will be proud of and in which future generations will live enriched (not by dollars) lives.

1. Replace BIGGER. Make a shift.

I like fulfilling.

Is your life fulfilling?

Are you fulfilling your purpose for being here?

Are you full yet? Yes? Good, time to stop eating.

You may choose a different concept. That’s fine.

The first order of business is to understand and stay true to WHY we want power. On behalf of what are we called to lead?

What is the story you want to tell about the world you helped to create?

2. Dress ourselves up in suits of power and get in the game, but never forget the purpose for which we donned those suits.

Understand the current rules.

Once there, and that means all along the way, create the shift.

Start pushing the broom from the other side.

3. Nelson Mandela this thing.

We are not better than men.

We simply have something different to offer, and it is needed now.

We also need men and women working together to make this new paradigm work.

Without men we will simply become fish in a different pond that cannot see the water in which they swim.

Here’s a sample of what could be.

It is new story two women have already created. Enjoy.


Other items of interest:

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  1. Dorothy Dalton June 24, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Anne – excellent post. So many messages about a need for new ways of thinking -and yet old models are held onto for dear life. Time for change!
    Dorothy Dalton recently posted…What is your career sine New take on career strategyMy Profile

    • Anne June 25, 2011 at 10:13 am #

      Yes. Thanks Dorothy

  2. Dana Theus June 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    Yes! (on all points). What you’re calling for here is TRANSFORMATION, which is an art that humanity is still perfecting, but which I believe women will lead the way into understanding. This is one of my personal missions and I know that we will be collaborating more and more in the future on articulating and discovering and living into this wonderful potential future. Most importantly it’s a journey we’re not going to be taking alone. Love it and thank you for adding your voice so beautifully to what is a rising movement.


    • Anne June 25, 2011 at 10:12 am #

      Dana – thank you.Your voice and thoughts are important. I agree that transformation is what’s needed and what I’m calling for. There is substantive research indicating women are more likely to be transformational leaders. I think this is very powerful, given that even transformational leadership as currently understood is defined by men, enlightened men. Once more women get in the game, we will have the opportunity to define leadership in more gender plentiful ways. Delighted to be making this journey with you.

  3. Sharon Eden June 26, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    Wow… Now that’s what I call a juicy proposition!

    Brilliantly said…

    Sharon Eden recently posted…Gone fishing!My Profile

    • Anne June 26, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

      Thanks Sharon. A man I respect who is a champion for women leaders commented, “Why not both and?” My point of view is that it must be Both And. Either one without the other is 1/2 no matter which half it is. Neither half is better. Both are needed and each brings something different to the party.

  4. Paul McConaughy June 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    The world of business, as it is, continues to focus on the runaway goal of the 20th century – conspicuous consumption. Consumption will not win the future. Adding meaningful value to our lives and the lives of those we love would be a good start for the 21st century. To get that kind of shift will require a new mindset. I welcome men and women who can bring it!

    • Anne June 26, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

      Thanks Paul. Here’s to the new mind set you call for, wherever it comes from.

  5. Cherry Woodburn June 28, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    Powerful post. When I was an outside consultant to org’s I could see their paradigms because of not being immersed in them for years. So I think your point about women is accurate. That being said, it could also be true of young people coming into business, who like women need to work into the power positions. In both cases, they need to get into the power positions to be heard, at least that was my experience as a consultant. It was laughable the # of times I & others were brought in to help with change, make recommendations which were then ignored or not followed thru long enough to make a difference. And we didn’t have the power to “make” them do what we wanted.
    As you say, it’s important to be pushing from both sides. Cherry
    Cherry Woodburn recently posted…Recycle Your Thoughts Into a Beautiful Work of ArtMy Profile

    • Anne July 6, 2011 at 8:17 am #

      Thanks Cherry. I’ll keep pushing and know you will too.

  6. Jane C Woods July 5, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    Thanks for this post, Anne. Did you hear me saying “Hear! Hear!” I am so signed up to the neither gender is better, both are good view, and both equally together would be a brilliant world! Jane

    • Anne July 6, 2011 at 8:16 am #

      Thanks Jane. Your support and “Hear! Hear!” means a great deal here.

  7. Susan Mazza July 11, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    So many great points and very well expressed Anne. The specific transformations you point to are essential to a sustainable future. I also think we need multiple lenses to look through beyond the masculine and the feminine. You have been doing a great job of distinguishing masculine and feminine NOT as equal to male/female yet I wonder if we will continue to get tripped up as historical beliefs collapse those two very distinct frames of reference.

    Particularly as it applies to creating a paradigm for how to view organizations of the future, I find a systems thinking perspective to be an essential perspective to consider.

    And I have a question for you – is mechanistic a masculine paradigm and complex adaptive system a feminine paradigm? Until reading your post I had not considered how those two frames of reference actually meet.

    • Anne July 13, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

      Susan – I like the thought sparks and questions you pose. I am not an expert in complex adaptive systems, but that does not get in the way of sharing some views.

      First a point of clarification, when I use the term Feminine I am not talking about gender, female or women. I am referencing an archetype in western culture that embodies relationship orientation, concern with community, soft skills, nurturing, etc. The masculine is not male but an archetype that captures aggression, individualism, clear boundaries, concern for self, forcefulness, and the like.

      The most concrete example of gender and adaptive complex systems that comes to mind is pregnancy. The body stretches, grows, changes shape and chemistry to incorporate and support the life of another. I associate The Masculine with building more permanent and less permeable structures. Both permeable and more well bounded structures are required in social organizations. But we are at a point in time when the less flexible and less permeable have predominated. Striking a better balance requires a shift. In addition, the world, our knowledge, and our technology have opened our thinking in ways that call for more open and more flexible systems.

      The second example comes from a book entitled Erotic Mentoring. It is about relationships between the genders in academic settings. In one of the early chapters two professors, husband and wife, the author and her spouse, are sharing stories about their “extraordinary” day in the classroom. He relates standing at the front of the room, chairs arranged to face him, as he gives a lecture that holds the students in rapt attention. She talks about chairs arranged in a circle, students engaged in an intense discussion based on a topic she introduced. At various points in time, different students hold the group’s attention such that it is unclear who is the professor and “formal” leader. In both situations the students were engaged, attentive and learning.

      Each structure has a role to play. I believe the Feminine is more akin to a complex adaptive system, while the masculine is a less flexible, more fixed, less permeable, and a more bounded system.

      Neither is better. Both are needed. Each works well according to the situation and desired outcomes.

      Please share your thoughts. I’m interested.

  8. Jennifer Sertl July 26, 2011 at 6:56 am #

    Women have always had to have indirect power and get their point of view expressed through influencing spouses and lovers etc. Today indirect power is the power. I am thrilled with this shift because conduits-people who carry messages but often are the cable vs. content-are finding tangible ways to “prove” their value. More women need to uses the strength of traditional masculine energy and more men need to use the strength of emotional intelligence. Today’s world requires a great dance between these two genders and two energy sources. What an amazing time to be alive.


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