The further I’ve gotten into the work of helping leaders explore their feminine wisdom, the more I’ve been encouraged by how many other people are feeling similar tugs toward the same work. One of the greatest principles at the heart of this work is that WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER! We have abandoned old business models that tell us to be wary of the competition and have embraced new models that see us reaching out to like-minded people doing the same work so that we can grow it together.
Mary Stacey is one of those people. Together with two other women, Mary will be hosting a workshop called Leading Full Circle in Toronto at the end of September that I would highly encourage you to consider attending. I invited Mary to write a guest post to tell us about the work she’s doing.
Mary Stacey holds the founding vision for Leading Full Circle and is the managing director of Context Consulting Inc., which partners with clients at the intersection of strategy, leadership and change. Guided by her belief that women’s leadership is urgently needed in today’s business environment and larger culture, she works with women in senior roles and executive education programs who want to more fully express their potential.
Every day we see more indicators that our world is fundamentally changing. Conventional systems are giving way and we cannot yet see what is emerging. Among the calls for alternatives, we often hear that somehow women—and the leadership they bring—can be pivotal for the future. Former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan went so far as to say the future of the world depends on women.
Business schools heeding the call have increased their offering of women’s leadership programs. I notice that most of these are heavily weighted in the paradigm of the dominant masculine, and I can’t imagine that this is what we intend when we call for women’s leadership. It seems to me that what’s needed are women (and men) who can situationally draw on their masculine and feminine capacities, bringing focused action and connected compassion in right balance to address complex and uncertain situations. I remember once hearing Gloria Steinem say that women benefit from temporary, separate places where they are central and not peripheral. Creating ‘spaces of their own’ for women leaders allows them to reclaim the feminine and consciously integrate it with the masculine. In these environments women can develop new and powerful practices that are so urgently needed for business, community, and societal change.
We are also living, for the first time in organizational history, in a context where four generations bring their distinct worldviews, motivations, and preferred styles to work. So far, most organizations have taken a managerial view of this reality by segmenting the generations into Traditionals, Boomers, X’s, and Y’s and then focusing on address the conflict that exists between them. This approach leads to polarization rather than a more open and collaborative way of being together, such as I’ve seen emerge in our Multigenerational Leadership Exchange. In this ‘multi-gen lab’ we’ve seen many examples of how multigenerational leadership is a potent human resource and catalyst for change. Multigenerational leadership seems to naturally find the way through complex challenges. In our work we feel so strongly about the potential of multigenerational leadership we’ve declared that multigenerational learning is a core design principle for the future of leadership development.
I’ve wondered what might be possible if a multigenerational web of women who intentionally focus on their individual and collective leadership began weaving itself into our personal, community, and professional lives. Could this web initiate a new paradigm for leadership, integrating the masculine-feminine in service of a more just and sustainable world? Could it be a powerful source of energy and conscious wisdom that acts on behalf of seven generations to come?
Last spring I had the opportunity to begin exploring these questions as I joined with colleagues Sandy McMullen and Reilly Dow to offer Leading Full Circle – Women in Multigenerational Leadership. Twenty women between 19 – 68 from the corporate and non-profit sectors gathered over two days to explore their leadership through mutual mentoring, embodiment practice, and artistic expression. For all its deep intention, the program came to life in a very practical way. Women addressed real questions about their leadership, they formed new relationships to more meaningfully interweave their life and career, and they developed practical catalytic capabilities that they could apply immediately.
Near the end of the two days each woman made her unique gesture on an abstract expressionist painting that she’d created. Twenty vibrant works of art were created that day, representing the women’s shared intention to embody their learning about the transformative power of women’s multigenerational leadership.
Here’s what a few women said about their experience:
I leave the program so hopeful for the future- not only because of the younger women, but also because of the generation ahead of me.
~Jennifer Williams, Director, Unitron
This multigenerational women’s leadership program has been a powerful living experience for me; each one of us a teacher, coming to an understanding that wisdom in leadership comes from mutual mentoring.”
~Victoria Grant, Teme-Augama Anishnabai and President, Moving Red Canoe
The artistic practice allowed me to discover new sides of myself.
~McKenna Wild, Account Coordinator, Environics
The mutual mentoring was exceptionally moving for me. It helped me to understand my strengths in leadership.
~Lyndsay Macdonald, Student, Ryerson University
On Sept 30-Oct 1 we’ll be convening our next gathering of women in Toronto. We’re beginning to sense the fullness of what multigenerational networks of women leaders can offer their organizations, communities and to future generations. If you feel the program is right for you at this time, we invite you to complete an application and join us.