This blog post is about flexing your approach to match the context: the audience demographics, the time of day, the setting, the subject matter, the intention for the meeting, and more.
It was the end of a long day...after several long days...and the group was slow to move into their chairs from the break. The room was darkened for Brian's slide show, and he began to present content about some studies, using academic terms and building his "evidence" to make his point that related to points made earlier in the day.
Unfortunately, the group was simply too tired, his presentation too long, technical, and jargon-laden for them to relate, and while they were well-educated, they weren't an academic group. Brian's well-intentioned idea fell flat with his audience, who was, thankfully, forgiving.
As a leader, the way you use your energy and the skill with which you read the energy of others directly affects the way you engage and focus their attention, and so is key to your success. One approach to conceptualize energies is the Dao, or Yin and Yang framework, akin to the feminine and masculine energies. These are general qualities, not gender identities. We all have all of these qualities to greater or lesser degrees and all use them in differing situations. They are complimentary and one cannot exist without the other. In balance, they embody strength.
They all have their sweet and their sour spots; none are good or bad on their own...just more or less appropriate for any given situation. Although each of us has a particular inclination toward a constellation of them, learning to skillfully embody and flex among a wider spectrum adds immensely to leadership outcomes: greater respect, attention, trust, resonance, and engagement.
Masculine energy is straightforward, structured, relying on logic, control, and action. It asserts, differentiates, is competitive, and is focused on the bottom-line. It recognizes itself as independent and directive, with an external orientation, and is more "head"-oriented.
Feminine energy is receptive and circular, and relies more on intuition, planning, and process. It listens, integrates, is accommodating, and embraces a wide variety of stakeholders. It recognizes itself as interdependent and flexible, with an internal orientation, and is more "heart"-oriented.
This doesn't necessarily mean you'll always use feminine energies with women and masculine with men. It does mean that, as a leader, you need to attune to the strongest energies in the room at any given moment, flexing with the flow that arises from them, and being attuned to your own internal reactions and responses.
A group sitting in a darkened room at the end of a long day might better respond to suspenseful storytelling than a slide deck, or a low-to-moderate physical activity aligned with content delivery than sitting still. A group with strong assertive energies may need a leader who increases that assertiveness by just a few "ounces", then leans back to listen and invite response. It may mean asking for feedback or intentions for the meeting from the group when they appear disengaged, and fully listening, reflecting back, and empathizing with complaints or discontent. It could require taking stand in a group that is stuck in accommodation or process paralysis.
Interested in learning more about skillfully recognizing and playing with energies in your management or leadership role? Contact me at kerul at firstnaturefoundation dot org for more resources.