Krist Pauwels

We have been living in a decidedly patriarchal entrepreneurial culture for centuries. Male leadership still tends to dominate in the economy and our work environment. Women may well have fought their way to, and sometimes even broken through, the glass ceiling but in essence the deep-rooted male ethos has continued to rule the workplace. The many instances of abuse of power that are emerging from the shadows of recent decades demonstrate this quite clearly. The testosterone of groping egos easily exceeded the boundaries of decency during an era in which this was considered quite acceptable. The intense fury of the mass #metoo movement that followed was no more than a logical reaction that appears to be a wake-up call to the entire world and is once again putting the spotlight on the battle of the sexes.

However, the essence of the ‘masculinised’ society goes much deeper than these excesses. We have regarded masculine criteria as a benchmark for cooperation in our daily lives and work for a very long time. It is accompanied by an almost unstoppable pursuit of ever more – companies and brands focus on figures that reflect targets, performance and profit maximisation. Irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman, we are all immersed in this predominantly male culture of activity, which regularly goes into overdrive. As a result, more and more people are encountering problems. Too much male or yang force will blow up your engine. The high incidence of burn-out and absence from work as a result of work pressure and stress are typical examples of this trend.

More and more people are forced to seek peace and a meaning behind the daily rat race. As a result, they automatically enter a period of introspection, looking for meaning and significance, with a much greater focus on the importance of the human being behind the figures. This is what’s referred to as yin in the East. By incorporating these predominantly female aspects more successfully in our daily way of life and work we will create a much healthier balance, more than anything enabling us to avoid this overdrive.

It is obviously ok to be proactive and take hard and fast decisions where necessary, providing you create scope during a next step for a moment of reflection and doing nothing. The focus on figures is absolutely necessary, but it becomes more balanced if you alternate it with warmth and involvement amongst the people behind it. Rational thinking is equally important. It is one of man’s greatest gifts and becomes even more meaningful if we also allow our emotions to play a part in our work. Companies today are focused on developing competencies. And again, that’s no more than rational, but the continual drive to become an even better professional will only gain significance if you also find scope to develop as a human being.

The new leaders are men and women who, irrespective of their responsibilities, are aware of this resilience and strength within themselves and their work environment. They rely on these strengths in order to create a lever, based on a more profound balance, to introduce greater harmony and awareness in their own lives and the lives of those around them. If you have a very male leadership approach by nature, you should at the same time specifically look for this yin force within yourself. It will provide the base you need to steer your proactive drive in the right direction. If you tend to be a yin leader, try to appeal to the yang within yourself. It will ensure that the approach centred on the human being gains a targeted focus and people become closer to the nature of the environment in which they exist.

A hopeful sign is that on 18 May the Organisation of The Future (ootf.be) brought together more than 300 entrepreneurs in Antwerp aimed at venturing into an experience based learning network on this topic.