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Leadership To advance at work, all of us must use both our ‘masculine energy’ and our ‘feminine energy’

Betty-Ann Heggie.

Betty-Ann Heggie is author of Gender Physics and former executive at Potash Corp. (now Nutrien).

In life and in our careers, each of us operates in our own sphere of energy – what is an energy gainer for one person might be an energy drainer for another. Operating in your authentic energy not only motivates you, one could argue it is what makes you the most successful.

Yet in the workplace, certain attributes are equated with success more than others and the pressure to fit in can be at odds with what is authentic to us. Those that are born and labelled “blue” are expected to exhibit an energy that is strong, confident, independent and self-sufficient. Those who are born and labelled “pink” are socialized to exhibit the opposite energy and be caring, supportive, reflective and other-oriented.

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The expectation that we’ll have a certain energy based on our gender puts us in a box, making it difficult to behave authentically. This can be draining.

In my mentoring programs, I see the frustrations this creates for young career professionals, both men and women. They are discouraged with the expectations of the existing system and want to establish their own unique modus operandi for their lives and careers.

Many young professional women who had superior marks in school and who after graduating secured positions at desirable firms, now find they are being overlooked. Furthermore, socialized attributes such as being a good listener, which served them well in the classroom, only exacerbate the problem in the workplace. These women know they have talent, want upward movement in their careers and can’t figure out why things aren’t working.

They aren’t alone. Many young professional men also feel constrained. These men seek more balanced relationships where they are free to partner equally with women, sharing child-care and financial responsibilities in a modern family. They want more purposeful and balanced lives where it is not “all about work” but also about living. Finally, they want to be able to “feel their feelings,” the basis of all successful intimate relationships.

To provide a bridge from where these up-and-coming leaders are now to where they want to be, they need to accept that gender is a social construct. This allows for letting go of antiquated gender stereotypes and expressing their unique individuality, all of which will give them more energy.

In terms of “masculine energy” and “feminine energy,” none of us is either/or, we all have both. Not only can we access both energies, it is in our best interest to do so because they are most effective when used together. There are advantages of responding with a more confident, assertive masculine energy in some situations or with a caring, collaborative feminine energy in others. We just need to shake off our socialization.

I learned that lesson when our corporation bought another in the southern United States. The guys from the acquired company didn’t want to report to a Canadian, much less a Canadian woman, and they let me know it by being unresponsive and dismissive. Using my feminine energy I tried to “tend and befriend” them by taking them out for a nice dinner – but it didn’t get me very far.

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A male mentor at my firm told me to “man up.” He said, “Take them out behind the woodshed to show them who is boss.” Summoning up my masculine energy, I took a strong stand with my new employees, told them in no uncertain terms how things were going to be done and reminded them that there would be ramifications if they didn’t fall in line. It worked. After I drew a line in the sand, they acknowledged me as the department leader. From that point on, I used feminine energy to develop good personal relationships with them.

Consider Thomas Edison: He dreamed about the light bulb, then immediately went to work in his lab to take his dream from imagination to reality. That dream was feminine energy – an intuitive awareness that brought forward an idea. He then acknowledged this spark of inspiration and took the initiative to act on it. This call to action is a masculine energy attribute – it knows how to get things done.

Edison acknowledged his feminine energy dream and with the application of masculine energy, made it a reality. This good flow of both energies was critical to one of the most important inventions of all time and the same can be true for you: Using both energies will not only give you more energy in all aspects of your life, it can help you be successful in your career on your own terms.

Learn what gender energy you operate in at https://bettyannheggie.com/energy-evaluation/

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