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Stewardship In The C-Suite: How Embodied Feminine Leadership Is Transforming The MENA's Corporate Landscape "It's time to break free from old paradigms, and create a corporate world that is inclusive, compassionate, and life affirming."

By Kristine Lasam

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

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There is a collective desire in the world today to create a space for people to feel safe, to feel seen. A venue for someone to be witnessed.

Today, I advocate the idea that at some point since 2020, people have been struggling mentally in the workplace. As a woman that has paved her way up the ranks across my career, I have lived in the linear rigid lines of the work culture. We may have progressed with more work-from-home options, but the pressures remain similar for most. The limiting beliefs of the modern workplace are creating barriers for unlimited potential.

I have said this before, and I will say it again to anyone who would care to listen- I believe that there is a path that we can create without expelling ourselves from the system. That can only happen firstly by embracing my personal agency, and making my interior life and the work that comes with prioritizing this a non-negotiable. There is an unshakeable integrity in knowing that I am responsible for myself, and that I am responsible for relating to another. When people ask me what "integrity" means, I always return to something I read from one of my favorite books, The Interior Castle: "All streams flowing forth from a clear spring are also clear."

Understanding this was a real gamechanger for me, because the more work I did inwardly, the greater the expansion I experienced externally. Just like how the industrial revolution came to be, we need to beckon in a new era of corporate governance and stewardship. There is a clamor to return to virtues. And this is where embodied feminine leadership is the key.

Embodied feminine leadership is not about women simply stepping into leadership roles; it's about embracing empathy, compassion, and inclusivity that have been diminished by our linear and rigid corporate hierarchies. These qualities are crucial for creating a work culture where every individual feels seen, heard, and championed. Embodied feminine leadership is also for both men and women. It's about striking an organic and healthy polarity dynamic that will make breaking the glass ceiling obsolete.

A RENAISSANCE OF VALUES

We can only get to embodied female leadership when we return to our own capacity to resource by staying true, present, and centered- which is not always an easy thing. In my somatics work, which is a part of learning to be in my body, my teacher would always prod me: "How are you looking at the world? Is it with the front of your eyes, or the back of your eyes? How are you meeting the world? Are you meeting it from your center?"

When I take a step back and make a decision to slow down in response to the fray, I feel a big shift. I feel like I am truly responding from a place of creation- stepping into my power. When I meet the world with my center, I know that I am putting my heart as the creative leader of my life- and when I do, magic steps in.

This requires a daily commitment as well as work to express a deep level of self, where you take stock of your life in all the most important aspects, and embrace being brutally honest. How am I showing up? Am I devoted to my purpose? This type of inquiry is the path of those committed to self-discovery and mastery. They are the ones who will pave the new path away from what no longer works- a linear way of operating to a fully conscious and organic way, creating far more sustaining environments that create leaders that look at the world, and relate to others with congruence and harrmony- an open mind, and an open heart.

There is a missing capacity to connect to that. You have to suspend your habits of judgment (open mind), and you need to also have the capacity to access your empathy and compassion (open heart). Leaders need to showcase examples. They need to give frameworks and offer practices that engage people every day, and you need a support system with whom you review these things.

Related: Why Gender Equality And Women-Centric Policies Make Good Business Sense

A TRUE PATH TO BELONGING

One of the most effective ways to inculcate feminine-led values is through mentorship. Sharing experiences, offering guidance, and creating a network of support can make a substantial difference. When I mentor young professionals, I emphasize the importance of self-awareness and personal agency. Understanding and navigating the system you're in, while staying true to yourself, is vital.

When I attended the Women's Empowerment Convention in Dubai earlier this year, what stayed with me was the communion I held with the women I met at the event; some I already knew, some I was meeting for the first time. I sat down with women in our mentorship circle- listened to their stories, ambitions, challenges, and even their pain. I shared mine too. And in that space, we forged a connection that made all of us feel seen, heard and validated.

A powerful anecdote comes from my own experience as a single mother of two sons. This role taught me the essence of setting aside ego and practicing empathy. It's about "getting over yourself" to see and understand other people's perspectives. This doesn't mean self-sacrifice, but rather listening with compassion, and creating a safe space for others to express themselves. This approach has been instrumental in my leadership style as well as in mentoring others.

GRATITUDE AND GIVING BACK

A pivotal piece of embodied feminine leadership is giving back. We have lost sight of the things that matter. But if you do prioritize it, lead it with all your heart.

As an example, consider the time my team and I worked closely with two social enterprises called Evolvin' Women and Kutafriti Africa. The Kutafriti Afrika organization was conceptualized with an aim to impact underprivileged women's lives in Kenya by providing them with more deeply relevant intervention and support in a variety of areas. After volunteering for Evolvin' Women by conducting design thinking workshops for Kutafriti Afrika, helping them reframe their brand strategy and positioning, as well as their messaging house, we were enthusiastic to venture into the country to build the foundation towards differentiated impact and experience for women in rural Kenya.

It was one of the first pro-bono work I looked at with the team to support. I remember our first call as a team- huddling together for what was supposedly only half an hour's briefing. 25 minutes in, we still hadn't gotten to the design thinking scope. The team then said, "Since we only have five minutes left, we'll rush through it." And I paused- too choked up to speak. I told them, "I have all the time in the world for you, for this." In those first 25 minutes, we understood the grace that was present amongst us- "we have an opportunity to help," and so, we did. Together, we've made a significant impact, impacting the lives of 1250 women, and laying the foundation for Kutafiti Afrika, thereby advancing female empowerment.

We were a group of women and men who collectively decided we wanted to do more- more than the initial scoping we carved out. Clocking more than the usual number of hours that sometimes make up a long grind. In this arena, the more energy and time we gave, the more it gave back to us. Purpose-led work is a formidable fire of creation.

SOMETHING NEW BECKONS

We need to overhaul the consciousness of organizations. Leadership should no longer be about competition and hyper performance alone. It should be about creating environments where everyone can bring their whole selves to work, and contribute meaningfully. This requires a balance between the traditionally valued qualities of logic and strategy as well as the equally important qualities of empathy and inclusivity- the ability to hold space and be unequivocally present.

I urge aspiring male and female corporate leaders to embrace embodied feminine leadership. It's time to break free from old paradigms, and create a corporate world that is inclusive, compassionate, and life affirming.

Related: Could Investing In Women Be The Next Bitcoin Opportunity? Making The Case For Gender Lens Investing

Kristine Lasam

Managing Director - Lead for Creative Business at Accenture Song, and Inclusion and Diversity Lead and Corporate Citizenship Council Chair at Accenture Middle East

A prolific writer and storyteller, Kristine Lasam calls herself a creator of embodied feminine leadership, as well as an inclusive and caring work culture. With over two decades of experience in C-suite positions, she leads the creative agency for Accenture Song, and she also spearheads inclusion, diversity, and corporate social responsibility for Accenture Middle East. Kristine has retained a strong core team for over a decade with her unique take on leadership, and is a trailblazer when it comes to culture-shaping initiatives that leave a lasting impact.
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