Could we get a little more feminine leadership, out of all of us, please?

I just watched a beautiful interview with Dr Katherine Wilkinson, founder of Project Drawdown and a wonderful climate activist, and author of the forthcoming book, All We Can Save. She advocates very cogently for a new style of leadership… one that, ooh, provocatively, might be termed, feminine leadership.

She said: “I feel really intensely that we are at a crossroads of peril and possibility. We’re in this pressure point moment. We know that the possibilities for keeping planetary warming below 2 degrees Celsius are very rapidly slipping through our fingers. It feels to me like we have a really thin sliver of possibility that we could still walk through together. And that means that we have to radically and rapidly reshape society.

Science has very clearly given us this task of rapid and radical transformation this decade. What I think sometimes gets left out of the climate conversation is that the climate crisis is a leadership crisis. If we need to be undertaking societal transformation, then we also need to be leading from a more transformative transformational place and space. That’s very much at the root of the work that Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and I have been doing about supporting feminine and feminist climate leadership, which I think we need boatloads more of.

It’s very clear that status quo leadership is not getting the job done on climate. I think we see so many of the toxic dynamics in leadership in other spaces and other sectors playing out in the climate movement. For a long time, the public voices around climate have been very white, very male, it’s often been very science/engineering policy-centric, the discourse. And so what’s been really exciting to me is to see the way, certainly leadership that is more characteristically feminine and more committedly feminist, is not limited to people of any gender. But what we’re seeing is that women are bringing that kind of leadership in droves. That looks like a few things: it looks to me like a commitment to making change, rather than being in charge. Dealing with the ego and hierarchy and control, so we come in a posture and rhythm that allows for genuinely linking arms, following, where wise leadership emerges, passing the mic, shine theory, all of that.

It looks like a deep commitment to healing systemic injustice and not either sidelining those concerns or inadvertently deepening systemic injustices. The climate crisis is not just about burning fossil fuels, it’s about colonialism and racism and patriarchy and extractive capitalism. Equity is survival.

And then there’s a real nurturing of heart-centred and not just head-centred leadership.

So recognizing that there are inescapably spiritual and psychological dimensions to this crisis, to the work and a willingness to do the inner work, that seems to me to necessarily precede effective outer work in the world. And that capacity for holding grief and anxiety and anger but also courage and determination and love and of welcoming all of that emotional content into the climate conversation… and the last piece that we’re seeing is a commitment to building community and a recognition that bulding community is a ncesasry foundation for building a better world. This is not a story of heroes. It’s a story of collectives. If we’re successful. It will be a story of we, and not I.

I’m reading her book right now. So stand by. I suspect we’ll be talking more about this. 🙂

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