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Wisdom 2.0 Women Conference Encourages All to Incorporate Yin Aspects in Leadership

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She emphasized that a connection to the yin aspect helps offset the yang aspects of technology and modernity.   Echoing the inclusiveness theme, she called for the cultivation of yin aspects in the personal and professional lives of both men and women.

By Alexandra Ross (Senior Counsel, Paragon Legal)

The inaugural Wisdom 2.0 Women Conference was held on April 30, 2013 in San Francisco.  An offshoot of the Wisdom 2.0 Conference (now in its fourth year), the sold out event drew about 200 professional women and a few brave men.   In her opening remarks, Wisdom 2.0 Conference Director and Life Coach, Michelle Stransky, welcomed us to an evening of dialogue about wise and compassionate leadership through mindfulness.  She stressed that the evening, although a women’s conference, was meant to be inclusive of both genders.  The organization also embraced our input as Ms. Stransky invited comment on the direction and focus of future Women Conference events.  Based on my experience that evening and the quality of the speaker presentations and breakout sessions, I would say the women’s conference is off to a promising start.

The first speaker, Christine Barrington, a member of the Women Conference’s advisory board and a psychotherapist, spoke of finding a balance of the masculine and feminine in our modern, technology influenced world.   She explained the two types of knowing: Yang, which is the more masculine aspect – explicit, left brain, logical and analytical – and the feminine Yin aspect, which is implicit, right brain and intuitive.  She emphasized that a connection to the yin aspect helps offset the yang aspects of technology and modernity.   Echoing the inclusiveness theme, she called for the cultivation of yin aspects in the personal and professional lives of both men and women.  To underscore her belief that a deep relationship with ourselves is a pre-condition for world transformation, she quoted a Hindu saying “When you take care of shakti (the essential feminine, yin aspect), shakti takes care of everything,”

Pat Christen, CEO of HopeLab, a non profit that develops technology-based tools to improve human health and well-being, spoke next.  Pat shared her professional journey from president and executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation to her current role.  Although working for the AIDS Foundation was rewarding, the intensely yang aspects of the advocacy organization ultimately left her depleted.  Her shift to HopeLab provided an opportunity to bring yin values into the workplace and experiment with leading from the feminine. She explained that to do its work, HopeLab developed a values-based culture intentionally designed to support creativity, innovation, and full engagement.  Everyone in the audience received a deck of “Questions for a Curious Leader” cards – one of the tools HopeLab created.  The cards are a set of prompts tied to values such as Candor, Integrity and Sufficiency.  Intended to be used when confronted with a challenging situation or when you feel “stuck” in your life, the cards promote staying present and open as leaders.

As a group, we worked with two of the cards: Curiosity and 100% Responsibility. The Curiosity card encouraged wonder and discovery by prompting the question of whether in a particular moment -“Am I staying curious – even if I’m certain I am right” or “Am I attached to being right and getting defensive?”  The card reminded us that getting curious can expand our vision and make us more powerful decision makers.  The 100% Responsibility card asked us to consider the crucial questions – “Am I taking full responsibility for my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being and renewal? Am I supporting others in taking full responsibility for theirs” or “Am I blaming others for what is wrong in the world?  Am I playing the villain, victim or hero, taking more or less than 100% responsibility for my life.”  As an antidote to the drama of playing the victim, villain or hero, the card calls for an assumption of 100% responsibility – no more, no less.  You can download a pdf of the Questions for a Curious Leader cards from the HopeLab website.

The last and most engaging presentation of the evening was by KC Baker, a public speaking trainer and founder of the School for the Well Spoken Woman.  KC’s mission is to help women overcome the fear of public speaking which often limits their ability to share ideas and participate in leadership roles.  She encouraged the audience to reinterpret the fear and anxiety that arises when asked to speak in public as a positive – as a visceral experience of our energy and power.  She shared her public speaking “secret” which is to allow that intensity to come through us so we can share our ideas and wisdom.   She believes that when we tap into that deep source of energy we can communicate in a way that feels natural and authentic.  KC also shared her concept of  “fertile listening” – which is a method of deep, supportive listening that celebrates the person speaking.  At the close of her presentation, KC invited members of the audience to the stage to share short insights from their experience.  It was an opportunity for those longing to contribute and shine to try out their public speaking techniques.  As an evocation of fertile listening and empowerment, the audience was asked to give each speaker a standing ovation before and after their presentation.  It was a fitting finale that enabled the conference attendees to find their voice and embody yin aspects in leadership and community.

Women 2.0 readers: How do you engage your yin in business?

125x125_Alexandra_Ross.jpgAbout the guest blogger: Alexandra Ross is Senior Counsel at Paragon Legal, working onsite at Autodesk, Inc. Previously, she managed privacy law and compliance as Associate General Counsel for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.  She is a certified information privacy professional and practices ecommerce and privacy law. 

Photo credit: RelaxingMusic via Flickr