As I sit here writing this in 2020, I am a 60 year old man who has been fortunate enough to experience a great deal of the world, raise three wonderful kids, two young Women who are now Mums and one young Man who will be a Dad soon.
I’ve also had the grace to meet and work with some incredible people from the deeply awake and aware, to the intellectually gifted, adventurers and daring explorers, people with unbreakable will, athletes who seemed to have super powers and artists left me in a state of awe.
Hopefully, I have gained some wisdom along the way.
This past week, my friend Amanda Blesing published a post on LinkedIn that attracted a great deal of attention and comment. And there were comments on comments. The post related to male managers in workplaces and how they might manage female members of the workforce.
The post and the consistent stream of comments left me contemplating. The topic entered my conversations for the next couple of days, with men and women, sharing perspectives and exploring the whole debate around gender and the work place.
From the outset, I have to admit I have had gender bias. Lots of it. I remember the first time I heard of a male nurse. I just could not get that one to fit through my window. And there have been many instances since, where I have had to handle my own rigid thinking and expand my mind.
And I believe without question that there should be no difference between men and women in the workplace. People should be rewarded for the job they do, the responsibilities they assume and their capacity to produce. None of that should have anything to do with gender.
And I have to admit that for the past few years, I have enjoyed Women’s Cricket more than Men’s.
Today I look at what is happening in the world and observe the leaders. I am not seeking to criticise because I am not prepared to put my hand up to do the job. Plus, they are our elected leaders, justifiably in office as they arrived there in accordance with the electoral system that we have all agreed upon.
But it seems there is an interesting pattern. Most of our leaders in Australia are being quite autocratic and simply laying out a plan and telling us what we can and cannot do. We then witness a lot of people wishing to argue with and oppose those directions.
It seems that Jacinda Ardern had a different approach, appealing to her people to come together and take the challenge together. She seemed to appeal to their willingness to get involved, do the right thing and contribute as a collective. Then she laid out the restrictions she wanted everyone to comply with. Her country has been the most successful in the world at stopping the spread of the virus.
One can argue that it was easier as they are a small country, surrounded by sea, and closing their borders was a huge advantage. But Auckland is still a city of 1.6 million people. I have been there many times and know it is a busy place. Social distancing would have been a challenge, especially with the tendencies for broader family gatherings of the Maori people.
I wonder where Melbourne would be right now if our Premier had sat up close to the TV Camera, perhaps with his family around him and appealed to our good nature, our sense of humanity and our deep desire to be of genuine service.
In this case, comparing Scott Morrison (Australian Prime Minister) or Daniel Andrews (Victorian State Premier) with Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand Prime Minister), are we comparing Male Leaders with a Female Leader. Or are we simply comparing different leadership styles, or leadership motivations that are coming from a different place?
A Lad Growing Up
Looking back over my life, national leaders have been predominantly men. We have watched those men march millions of young soldiers off to war, time and again, instead of sitting at a table and sorting the issue out. I guess it is hard for you to stop a war when you really like having wars.
As a lad growing up in Australia, competition became the way of the world. I remember when I was 7, the school was preparing for an athletics carnival against other schools. I was told to line up with all my classmates and we were instructed to run as fast as we could to the other end and touch the rope being held across the track. The whistle blew and I took off – and was first to touch the rope. Immediately I was separated from my friends and felt really strange as I was the winner. It was not a good feeling.
But I quickly learned that the winners got all the adulation. Soon I was winning at swimming club and getting attention from girls. I was hooked. And as I write this, I realise that through all of my sporting career, it was not just winning that got you attention, but your capacity to compete with intensity.
It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s, watching my talented step-daughter play football, cricket and netball, that I saw women can also compete with a similar ferocity to any man I’d ever met. She had no “stop button” and excelled in everything.
As I progressed, I also realised that competitiveness breeds jealousy. Jealousy can lead us into all sorts of nasty and destructive intentions, even hating others because they believe different things to us or wanting to drag people down because we do not want them to appear better or more successful than us.
This competitiveness exists in both genders.
Males however do carry a little more of the “male” hormone, testosterone, which an old friend of mine used to refer to as the “Have sex with it or kill it” hormone. His description was a little more forthright than that. We have demonstrated over time that we are more willing to go the whole way and kill to win.
As I contemplate this competitiveness more deeply, I realise that it even existed as I explored sex. As a teenage boy it was all about scoring, and you could not count a score unless you got all the way to intercourse. The ultimate pleasure in sex was not the depth of connection with another being but scoring the ultimate goal. It is easy to see why men struggle to connect after sex.
Then, when I did experience sex for the first time that emerged as a result of a deep and intense love for another, intercourse was no longer the goal. The utter depths of the connection and unity were all that mattered.
Patriarchy vs Matriarchy
Looking at leadership and having done a lot of reading over the years, it is interesting to note that many societies, historically, were Matriarchal. Most American Indians were matriarchal societies, yet Hollywood portrayed them as Matriarchal.
It seems that the Matriarchal Societies were less prone to war and conflict and more apt at sorting things out with conversations. So, I often wonder what it would be like if our Governments were led by women.
But then, Margaret Thatcher was more than happy to go to war too. Was she any better than her male counterparts? And Sarah Palin, would be Vice President of the USA, clearly demonstrated her love of a good kill. But these were only two women amid political parties dominated by Men.
I have to admit to not knowing much about Angela Merkel, but she appears to be a strong and trusted leader with a rare depth of compassion. And there was Benazir Bhutto. She had a power and a grace you could feel. I remember being deeply sadden when her life was so brutally taken.
And perhaps the secret to the Stability of the British Commonwealth is the enduring strength and stability offered by our female monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
I also have a deep curiosity for what I call “The Diana Factor”. Princess Diana touched all of our lives. I remember being deeply moved by her courage, compassion and care for aides patients as she sat with them, seemingly unmoved by all the hype at the time about the risks associated with the virus, holding their hands and listening to their stories. She was a royal who refused to play the protocols, seemingly driven by a care for others, a deep desire to relieve suffering and adventurous spirit that yearned to live life. And she did it all with grace and elegance.
Then I see the women who have come since, who seem to be of the same mould, Kate Middleton, Mary Donaldson and Michelle Obama to name just three.
Would the world be better if it were run by women?
Many of us had a great deal of hope when Barak Obama came to power. However, within 2 years of his election, he had lost control of both houses of Government and was forced to fight for everything he achieved. Perhaps we never did get to see him at his best. He had a gentleness in him that you did not often see in male leaders.
The same can be said for Malcolm Turnbull, a man of great vision and a strong sense of social responsibility. But it seemed his party could not keep his enemies at bay, and we did not get to see his best.
Would it be different if the predominance of our leaders were women? Perhaps it would.
The Role Models for Men in Leadership
Contemplating my role models of leadership as I grew up, I realise that most of my archetypes lie in movie based military figures and football coaches. That is about as testosterone filled as you can get. Barking orders and demanding compliance; all of it driven by a need to win.
When your consciousness is moulded in such a way, you want people to comply. Trust is not part of your make-up. Domination is a far more practical approach. Getting an army of supporters behind you too is helpful.
All the way through, all the Hollywood movies, and the depictions on TV, showed the man as being the protector of women and children and the provider for both. The man was the head of the family. Yet it is was also men who were separating young men from their mothers and sending them off to be die in foreign lands. All of it justified under the banner of “Security for all”.
There is no doubt that this “Protector” identity has justified some terrible things. In the Hollywood version of things, leadership was a Man’s work.
With the competitiveness and the desire to win, can come the desire to win at all costs, which can lead to a lust for power and domination. It is really just a case of magnitude.
Some Qualities of Women
Women are so completely different to men on most levels. Perhaps it is their capacity to create a child and bring it into the world that gives them a sense of love, self-sacrifice, care and endurance that men never get to experience.
We have all seen stories of women who become an unstoppable force when their children are threatened. I wonder if there is anything more enduring in this world than a Mother’s Love. I remember my Mum gripping onto life for 8 months after her doctors gave her 4 weeks to live. Luckily, my brother gave me a wake-up call and I realised that she was worried about my sister and who would care for her if she left. My sister, a real angel, has never been married and was by Mum’s side for much of the time. I talked with Mum about it from the other side of the world by phone as she lay in a semi-conscious state and promised I would care for my sister. Mum left us 15 minutes later.
Is this love unique to women? Probably not. I know that my love for my kids runs profoundly deep. In my life journey, I have met many men with an extraordinary capacity to love, as I have women. When I contemplate these people, what appears to be missing is the urge to dominate and compete.
I would argue that this powerful quality of love and nurturing that comes so naturally to women can also fade into the background when competitiveness arises. The Corporate World and Politics are both the playground of competition and often, the less competitive do not survive. I have met women who step into this environment and take on a similar persona to their male counterparts to find success.
The bottom line here is that Love, Care and Nurturing all originate in the heart. Competition exists in the mind, the head.
So, is our argument really about gender? Or is it about head over heart?
I am sure we have all witnessed women doing terrible things out of selfishness and self righteousness. I know I have witnessed profound injustice in the family court orchestrated by a self-serving woman. But her actions do not mean all women are the same. She is just one person who has lost connection with her heart and is drowning in competition, revenge, and power.
And I am constantly amazed about the commentary of lament about female politicians being judged on their dress and hairdo as opposed to what comes out of their mouths. It is not men who are doing that. Any woman will know how hard it is to get a man to notice she is wearing a new dress or has had her hair done. It is women leading these attacks, and then blaming the media.
This is not a story about Gender. It is a story about being a human being and whether or not we wish to evolve.
Finding Our Hearts
Perhaps this is the great journey of life. Perhaps the feminine energy we all love is just heart consciousness. And perhaps the male energy we are all starting to tire of is head consciousness.
Young children live from their hearts. Their capacity for care and love is beautiful. We then send them to school where they are taught to think and how to operate in a competitive environment. No wonder so many just do not fit in. Yet often their competitive parents then dominate them into some sort of compliance and further destroy the natural tendencies of the child.
At a time like this, we are all being given an amazing opportunity to reset, to discover what is really important to us.
I once said in a seminar, and a participant wrote it down and sent it to me:
“There are things in life that are important and things that are urgent. Often the important things are ignored as we tend to the urgent. Lives go off the rails when the important become urgent. The only way to prevent this is to expand our awareness to see how we are living. This is important. But few give it any attention because it doesn’t appear urgent”.
All of us need to start remembering our love for our families and our friends, and all the hundreds of people we have had close relationships with, in our lives. We need to start reaching out to all of them and connecting and finding out how they are doing.
We need to extend our love and care to the planet. Our head justified environmental destruction has to stop. If not, it will kill all of us. And our brutal treatment of animals must stop. There is no justifiable need for our treatment of animals, particularly factory farmed animals like poultry, cattle, pigs, and fish.
But all of this can only happen when we genuinely re-discover our hearts and that is not an easy thing to do. We cannot just wake up one day and say, “Right. No more competitiveness, jealousy, self-importance or me attitudes.” Keeping them at bay is like holding a beach ball under the water. As soon as you tire or get distracted, it explodes into the atmosphere.
And being a woman does not mean you have a mortgage on heart centred living.
This is a spiritual journey. Harry Palmer once quoted Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung in his lecture “The Path To Compassion”.
“We say ‘You can know it in the head, but you don’t know it in the heart.’ There is an extraordinary distance from the head to the heart, a distance of ten, twenty, thirty years or a lifetime. You can know something in the head for forty years and it may never have touched the heart. But only when you have realised it in the heart do you really begin to take notice of it.”
Some discover their hearts through tragedy or misfortune. Others experience a spontaneous awakening as a result of some event or situation. Others meditate for years in search of a genuine and lasting experience. Others carry it forward from childhood and never lose the connection. Others seek it through religious practice, but doctrine and dogma have a tendency to leave us trapped in our minds.
Step back and observe the amount of senseless violence perpetrated in the world in the name of Christianity, Islam, and other religions.
It is profound to realise how “heart centred” people of all genders become when there is a major catastrophe, like the bush fires we experienced in Australia last December, January and February. There was no competition. Just care, empathy. service and support.
A Solution for Women from a Man’s Perspective
Many men are so lost in their indoctrinated ways that they have no idea how to genuinely find their hearts. You all need to help them. And if you do not feel like you have the skills, then go get them. This is how you can change the world.
You may not yet be a CEO, but perhaps you have people you manage. Are you managing them like a man would, or are you managing them like a loving mother who has a good nose for business and building teams? I know which one will work.
Do you know how to help the men under your leadership to become more grounded in their hearts, how to feel more? Great leaders can do this. You cannot help men by ridiculing them or humiliating them. That does not work, and if you did do that, you are clearly not coming from a place of care.
Grant Gamble’s Book, “The Affinity Principle” is a roadmap to building successful teams through care and nurturing.
Maybe you have not yet found your way back into your own heart. And if you have not, it does not mean you are less of a person. You are just still on the path.
Can you stop yourself from being jealous of other women, and turn things around by acknowledging, encouraging, and supporting them.
When you are in a situation with a lot of dominating and head driven males, you are not going to succeed by playing their game. You have to be at the top of your game, caring, compassion, wise and curious. You need to learn to ask questions that inspire contemplation, not thinking.
In this world, particularly where it is headed, we all need all women in leadership to open their hearts more than ever and deliver the mother energy this word needs. Jacinda Ardern sitting on her bed with a cup of tea, talking to the New Zealand people via webcam is about as real as you can get. She is being herself, a woman, a mother, and a leader.
You need to help the men around you.
When working with men who are seeking to push agendas that are selfish, power driven and profit motivated, and that might be detrimental to others, there is a single question you can ask them…..and you may need to persist.
“How would your Mum, your Grandmas and your daughters feel about that decision?” After he justifies, you might say, “I think you just blew that question off without actually contemplating it, so can I ask you to take a moment and contemplate what I am asking. How would your Mum, your Grandmas and your daughters feel about that decision?”
It is Not about Emotions
An emotion is not a feeling. It is a response to a feeling. When you do the work and get to a place where you can run your life from what you feel, you can choose whether or not to experience an emotion. Being unemotional does not necessarily mean a person does not feel.
When you really do land in your heart you will have control over your emotions and direct, moment-to-moment access to your intuition. When you get there, you will be on the path to realising your greatest potential.
I guess right now it depends on where you place importance. Getting back on to a spiritual journey right now, transcending from head to heart, may be more important now than it has ever been. I personally believe it is urgent.
Meditation is a powerful tool, but I recommend that if you choose it as a tool, you find a good teacher and follow a disciplined practice. There are other practices too that you can choose.
This book, by Harry Palmer, is a great start point. You can purchase it as a Paperback, Audio-book or eBook.
And please, be kind to your kids. Do not break their will and please avoid forcing them into academic performance. Let them create their own lives and they will be ok.