Emerging Thoughts: Women’s Leadership and Conscious Business

We have to learn to think like Nature.
– Jonas Salk

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a three-hour networking forum hosted by the Chicago Chapter of Conscious Capitalism and Tiara International LLC, a global company focused on providing women’s leadership development.  I was very grateful for the opportunity to step away from my desk and hear from women and men whose values and leadership practices seem to echo my own.

Time within the session was too short for me to bring forward what were my intuitive, emerging thoughts in critique of the conversation. However, when I got home, I found  myself wanting to write down those thoughts and begin to articulate them here.

My thoughts might also be shared by the organizers, but I do believe what might be assumed needs to be made visible and articulated more fully if we are really going to move forward in a new way.

The topic for yesterday’s forum was: “Women’s Leadership and the Future of Conscious Business.” It was addressed by a four-person panel of business leaders that included: Rob Webb, CHRO of Hyatt Hotels; Valencia Ray, M.D., a consultant and executive coach with the Efficace Group; Tom Yorton, CEO of Second City Communications; and Linda Torakis, president of an automotive supply firm called McKechnie Vehicle Components.

While all of the panelists addressed important aspects of the topic, because of my own recent readings on our brain’s influence on our leadership style and practices, I found Valencia Ray the most exciting and thought-provoking speaker. She comes at leadership development through her neuroscience training as an eye surgeon, and is the author of Leadership BEYOND Gender: Transcend Limiting Mindsets to Become a More Engaging Leader. Ray was able to place the typical components of the male vs. female leadership conversation in the broader context of brain formation and function. For example, as the topic of “empathy” came up, Ray commented, “Empathy is mammalian. Men have it, too.”

However, as the conversation progressed, I found myself slowing asking why we were not placing even Ray’s comments on the evolution of the brain as it relates to women’s leadership and conscious business into the truly wider context of our presence on a dying planet from which we – as male and female – emerged.  The corporate conference room in which we sat had the company’s values creatively imprinted on smoked-glass sliding doors along one wall. It was impressive, but I found myself looking around the rest of the blank walls in the room and wondering, “Why aren’t we looking at images of Earth?”

woman with earthAs I carried that idea of seeing Earth in its wholeness forward, the next thought that emerged in my mind was, “It’s all about wholeness. That’s what we are seeking. If we want to know the point of intersection between women’s leadership and conscious business, it’s the wholeness reflected in Earth’s ability to sustain its community of life.”

It seemed to me that once again we were having the conversation as if the male and female reality of human beings exists in isolation and is the only point of reference that matters.

I found myself thinking, “Wait a minute. Conscious Capitalism was founded by John Mackey (Co-founder and Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, and co-author of the book, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business). Presumably, Mackey did so out of concern for people and our planet.” I did some quick research and indeed found that the store’s motto is: Whole Foods, Whole People, and Whole Planet.

Mackey has said, “Whole Foods Market is passionate about helping people to eat well, improve the quality of their lives, and increase their lifespan” (http://www.quoteswise.com/john-mackey-quotes-3.html). However, in my quick research of other quotes, I could not find one in which he clearly articulated his concern for our planet. Helping people will not happen without helping our planet; nor, I believe, without understanding our true origins on this planet, and our strong commitment to study Earth’s values and practices in determining our way forward.

In addition, I have written elsewhere on this site about another movement: ecofeminism. Ecofeminists have argued for decades now that the abuse, degradation and exploitation of Earth by the sexism of male-gendered power and privilege is directly linked with similar behaviors toward women. If we want to truly understand the intersection of women’s leadership and conscious business, we need to take seriously the deep roots of these pathological expressions of “maleness.”

I make an attempt to begin to put the conversation of who we are as masculine and feminine into the context of evolution in another blog on this site. I will just close here by saying we need to stop talking about women trying to be more like men, men trying to be more like women, women trying to be more like women, and men trying to be more like men. Instead, we all need to be talking about how we can become more like Earth, and the life-giving processes of our Universe that made it possible for Earth to emerge over millennia into conscious businesswomen and businessmen who now hold responsibility over whether or not that emergent life-process will continue.

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