Recently I was talking with a successful female leader. She was sharing some details of a meeting she was part of with a bunch of male executives. An idea was presented in the meeting that she was completely opposed to, and she told me that when she argued against it, she made a terrible error. She said, “I can’t believe I said this, but I started my argument with, ‘from the bottom of my heart…'” It took me a moment to understand why she was so horrified by that statement – and then it dawned on me…it was too feminine. It was then that I realized the worst career advice is still alive and well.
Women are often told to turn-down their femininity, while males are told to (when appropriate) turn theirs up. Men and women possess both masculine and feminine traits, but often try to hide some and accentuate others. This puts us out of balance with who we truly are. We are all different and some have more masculine traits and others more feminine. What’s important is that we stay balanced with our unique combination.
Women are encouraged to turn-up their masculine traits, like assertiveness, competitiveness, strength, dominance, and directness, and turn-down their feminine ones, like tenderness, compassion, empathy, caregiving, collaboration, and surrendering. I’ve seen it over and over again…too many years of this, and before long your authentic self is buried so deep, you don’t even know who you are anymore.
We need all of these traits at various times, so none are bad in and of themselves. But when we hide who are, when our outer self is completely incongruent with our inner self, we are setting ourselves up to feel a whole lot of pain. Certainly, there are occasions when we need to adjust our traits to the circumstances, but that shouldn’t be most of the time. When we are true and authentic we will attract people to us. The kind of people who appreciate these qualities. These are the people who become our friends, clients, and mentors.
There’s a reason we have both masculine and feminine traits – they complement each other. They work together. Think about it. Take a masculine trait and combine it with a feminine trait and you’ll see magic!
- Compassion + Assertiveness = Making a tough decision while being compassionate to those who will be impacted by it.
- Empathy + Directness = Giving constructive criticism while empathizing with the recipient’s discomfort.
- Caregiving + Dominance = Making a loved one go to the hospital for a potentially dangerous health situation.
See? When combined, masculine and feminine traits are like a bag of Kettle Corn – a little sweet + a little salty = a perfect combo!
Every couple I know (heterosexual and same-sex) has a complementary mix of these traits. One always has a higher level of masculine traits and the other a higher level of feminine traits. That polarity between people is often a large contributor to the attraction. The same is true in the workplace. Having a mix of people with varying levels of masculine and feminine traits is what contributes to diverse, thoughtful, and innovative teams. Having leaders and team members who are genuine and authentic results in honest relationships and greater respect.
Embrace your feminine and masculine qualities. Their unique mix is what makes you – you. If you find yourself on the receiving end of The Worst Career Advice That Just Won’t Die, might I recommend practicing some empathetic directness?
Tell me in the comments section your favorite feminine and masculine traits that you possess and how they have worked to your advantage.
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