Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Connecting with our bodies and the natural world

There are some "new" stereotypes emerging in song lyrics, advertising and prime time TV. (From my observation, often lead indicators of cultural shifts.) Women are talking about their desires, and how they desire men. Some of my favorite song lyrics, from the "hidden track" on Dido's Life for Rent album are, "The closer you get, the better I feel." There are car ads and coffee ads with women "lusting" for more. My recollection is that this trend was foreshadowed in the now famous "I'll have what she's having" scene in the movie "When Harry Met Sally".

In print imagery, women are being linked to nature and the natural world. Some hypothesize that women, because they bear children, have a stronger connection to the cycles of nature. I'm not sure this is true. I believe that there have been cultural pressures for men to appear to less connected to nature.

My hypothesis is that as man evolved, "thinking man" had a higher status than primal man. Kings, priests and scribes "ruled". Intellectuals (initially defined as people who could read and write) seemed to get more "perks", higher status, more money, attract more women.

For women, being an "smart" was not always viewed as an asset. We were supposed to look good and be good listeners. Our bodies, especially if they look good, were the source of our power. My mother mentored me in how to look, and act innocent and naive. The intention of this coaching was to ensure that I attracted an appropriate mate.

My theory is that for at least the last hundred years, or so, men have been competing to get smarter and smarter and richer and richer and women have been competing to get more and more beautiful (thinner, better hair, bigger breasts, fewer wrinkles, etc.). And our motives - the men's to get smarter and richer and the women to get thinner and prettier --have been the same. All of us just wanted to be admired, respected and loved.

Self-help books and magazine articles are trying to get us all to become closer to our "authentic selves". This quest to be authentic has resulted in men having the freedom be more nurturing and women to have the freedom to be more powerful. There are a lot more options for all of us now, and huge changes from the tight girdle of cultural expectations our parent's generation faced.

All of this rambling has been foreplay for my punchline. I am "playing" with the idea of procreation being a metaphor for co-creation. Could it be that men and women inspire each other to be at the top of their games? Could the "attraction factor" be one of the things that gets us out of bed in the morning?

A former boss told me the story of his mother living in a retirement community. Her social group was all women. And one day a single man, a widower, arrived. Everything changed. Women who had been wearing dowdy house-dresses began to dress in Sunday-best. The conversation became more stimulating. People brushed or inserted their teeth, combed their hair, cleaned their glasses. Everyone seemed more engaged.

One female engineer told me that she selected her area of engineering focus because she found her professor so inspiring. "I had such a crush on him", she admitted, after a second glass of wine. It was her love for him that inspired her intellectual pursuit and life-long vocation.

When I look deep into my past, it was my love and admiration for a high school English teacher that shaped my life. I have him to thank for my love of poetry, my understanding of symbolism and metaphor and my proficiency with written self expression. He said, at least once a week, "Make your advocation (meaning your passion) your vocation". This aspiration has become my mantra.

What are all of the phases and stages of attraction and procreation? Who actually pursues who?Some areas of gender interaction are well documented, other aspects barely understood. What attracts people to each other? What is love? Is love real, or is it only a "story"? What are the roles and impact of both parties in the extended courtship and child rearing process?

All of this is "food for thought" and more than I have time to write about today.

Shared Leadership

How many of us ever think about our "mental models" of leadership?

I have heard some people say, "To be a leader, you need followers." That seems to make sense on the surface, but does it make deep, sustainable sense. If one "leads by example", my intuition is that one follows one's heart and, some day, others will see the value of the leader's work.

In my mind's eye, I never pictured walking at the head of the pack. I always pictured walking arm-in-arm.

What do you picture?

What if everyone is a leader in her or his own unique area of expertise? That's what makes sense to me. If everyone is a leader, how can we keep track of everyone? Who is the "go to" person for our wants, needs and desires?

My best guess, today, is that every day is a blank canvas, and each day all any one of us can do is the best we can to engage others and be engaged ourselves. There so many learning opportunities and playful negotiations in front of us.

Just to admit that we don't know what to expect, and sense that it is sure to be an adventure, is a great place to begin.

Shared and flexible leadership might look like a field of wheat rippling under tender breezes, or white caps in the turquoise Mediterranian dancing in the sun light. I have imagined a room full of partner less dancing where you catch one person's eye and playfully dance, and then another pair of eyes and another.