A casestudy with Ursula: Feminine leadership and hierarchy

Is there a place for hierarchy in female leadership? Or is it a masculine concept, that women do not need because of their natural connection with their team?

Often acceptance and understanding of your inner self is an important step towards effective leadership.

‘I’m a feminine leader and for that i’m not sensitive for power’. The woman speaking these words to me, is not the stereotypical woman you are imagining right now. She is very direct, strong, intelligent and successful. But not really nice, reciprocal or ‘at ease’. 


Within our coaching,  I am explaining some things to her about neurotransmitters. She is really excited when I tell her about serotonine. Mainly because she recognises feeling unsafe. ‘Is that why you reacted as you did in the beginning of our conversation?’, I ask. She looks a bit surprised. ‘When we talked about power, you really defended yourself with this statement about femininity’. 


Now she is thinking about the matter. ‘But I feel woman are lot more in connection with others and do not need hierarchy. It is this masculine concept’. I laugh out loud and she looks a bit offended. ‘Am I a stereotypical man? Are you a typical woman? And please define’. Now she is smiling a bit too. 


‘There is no such thing as a man or a woman. There are male traits and female traits. Research shows that people that are successful in your position tend to posses more male traits. So you’ll probably feel a lot more comfortable in the top of the food chain than in a submissive position.’ Ursula is nodding all the time and writes down her thoughts. ‘I recognise the comfort that a certain position gives me. But isn’t that a bad thing?’. ‘Is it?’ I reply. 


We talk a bit more about her experience and decide that by definition everything is good. Even if she has this biological urge to be higher in hierarchy. ‘That means I bring the right competences to be sensitive and analyse quickly as a leader’ she summarises. Often acceptance and understanding of your inner self is an important step towards effective leadership. She works on her primal triggers when feeling unsafe and with this softens the negative side of her serotonine ‘talent’. 


Leaders around the world show the same and typical neuro-chemical mix. It is not a bad thing, as long as you understand that every talent comes with a price. Understanding this will ensure optimised effect in a position as leader. 


Read more about hierarchy en serotonine in Leadership Lessons #5: Hierarchy

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