4 Feminine Qualities Every Founder Should Bring To Work
Many founders have been conditioned to check their feminine qualities at the door when they walk into work because they may not be welcome there. Wrong!
It’s true whether we’re talking about a man or woman. Feminine traits — despite having long been devalued or dismissed as inappropriate in professional life — are, in fact, incredibly powerful in the workplace. And both men and women stand to improve as bosses and leaders by embracing and developing these skills.
Today, I embrace my feminine qualities because they make me a better leader. But that wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until later in my career that I realized that by holding back my feminine qualities, I was holding myself back.
And throughout my career, I’ve seen many powerful founders limit themselves professionally by suppressing their feminine qualities. Women, especially, are conditioned to believe that this is in their best interest.
I’m talking about transformative characteristics like sensitivity, intuition, surrender, and dreaming.
I discuss the misconception that only “hard,” masculine traits like assertiveness, directness, structure, and rigidity are valuable in the workplace. And it offers evidence that the ideal modern leader exhibits a healthy balance of both masculine and feminine traits. This is the philosophy I’ve developed and adopted as the founder and CEO of Stanton & Company, female-focused marketing, and PR agency.
Here are four qualities that can make a good founder into a great one:
Think about sensitivity not in the cliched context of someone who is “oversensitive” and easily upset, but as someone who is able to bring his or her senses to a situation. In this way, nothing is more powerful when building a business. A founder who is able to accurately sense what clients need, how best to communicate with customers, and how best to grow and nurture employees is at a massive advantage.
But for a long time, when I walked into work, I tried to check my sensitivity at the door. I had been told one too many times that I was “too sensitive.” So many professional women do this because they feel it’s the only option. But actually, it’s the combination of masculine and feminine qualities, used when the times are right, that enable us to be our best. Today, I’m assertive and direct and sensitive as well. And I feel more authentic and, as a result, more effective.
Intuition is that powerful, guiding gut feeling that helps us make tough decisions. In fact, it helps us see new opportunities and steers us away from poor choices as well.
Intuition doesn’t have to work alone. I use data and concrete evidence when making important decisions. But intuition is a feminine gift guided by beliefs and values rather than numbers alone.
Sometimes, it’s an unexplainable force pulling you in a particular direction.
For example, when I started Stanton & Company as an agency to promote underrepresented female athletes (we’ve since ventured into other female-focused markets), many people told me I was crazy. “Amy,” they said, “there’s no money in women’s sports. You’ll never be able to build a business in women’s sports.” But that challenge — coupled with an intuitive pull — only made me want to do it more.
My gut instinct told me they were wrong. Thank goodness!
Since I started the business 12 years ago, we’ve represented dozens of incredible female athletes. We’ve helped build so many inspiring, powerful female athletes into role models. We’ve created platforms to tell the amazing stories of these female athletes.
And today, the women’s sports landscape has evolved and expanded (and continues to) in ways that show that my intuition was right.
There is so much power and freedom in surrendering to not knowing, to not always having to be right 100% of the time, to the admission of vulnerability.
This idea is especially taboo because it challenges the dominant masculine ideology. This ideology says should be steadfast, unwavering, and inflexible in pursuit of your original objectives. However, founders with this mindset fight too hard. They refuse to admit defeat and surrender, even when it would benefit their business to do so. They fall in love with an idea or a vision and refuse to allow it to change or adapt in any way.
But things don’t always go as planned. It’s important in business to carefully watch how things unfold, and how a market reacts. This requires surrender.
In my case, if I wasn’t open to new ideas, or if I had been too inflexible with our business model, we would never have expanded into the broader healthy active living space which is now the bulk of our business. And it’s not like we had to abandon our original vision — we still work with female athletes — we simply had to be open to the bigger opportunity.
I was able to go with the flow, allow things to evolve and expand — I surrendered.
Every founder is a dreamer.
Yet, for some reason, dreaming has a negative perception — especially as a generalization toward women with big ideas. We’re just not pragmatic enough, they say. They tell us our heads are in the clouds, and our ideological roots exist outside of reality.
As a founder, so many things are working against you. It becomes difficult to dream big the way you did when you began your entrepreneurial journey. We move so fast and work so hard that we get stuck in the day-to-day minutiae, the immediate challenges, and the obvious … the cash flow.
But every founder should keep dreaming. About the possibilities. Where the business can go. Which new products that can be launched. Or a new way of doing business.
It’s the dreaming that got us here in the first place, and it’s the dreaming that will keep us going.
I invite every founder to think about what qualities you might be checking at the door because you feel you should. And how some of these traits might actually serve you.
You might be surprised to learn that the qualities that your peers are leaving at the door could be your secret weapon.
This post originally appeared on Crunchbase.