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Integral Chicks Investigates: Feminine Leadership

written by Nicole Fegley | produced by Kelly Sosan Bearer

The Integral Chicks are back from an amazing weekend devoted to one of the hottest topics in the Integral Community – Integral Leadership. We joined our friends at the Integral Leadership in Action Conference in sunny Santa Cruz, California and brought along a camera to ask a few of the stellar women in attendance to help us answer the question, “What is Integral Feminine Leadership?” We received some truly stunning and richly diverse answers that we are excited to share with you in the coming weeks.

Integral Leadership in Action is a non-profit organization that grew as an offshoot of the first Integral Institute Leadership Seminar, held in 2004. Following the event, a group formed around the commitment to gather on a regular basis for peer sharing and to continue to define the question, “What is Integral Leadership?”

Five successful events later, the group has evolved, partnered with various organizations including, most recently, the Integral Leadership Collaborative, secured its non-profit status, and made a deep and lasting mark on the community. The question that sparked the original conversation is still a work in progress, and the energy around that inquiry is higher than ever and we want to give a well-deserved shout out to the current board members: Victoria Wilson-Jones, President, Michael McElhenie, Co-Vice President, Terry “T” Poling, Co-Vice President, Kim Harpham, Finance/Treasurer and Jennifer Blalock, Communications.

ILiA 2012

This year’s event was a smashing success, bringing together 60+ people including such folks as Don Beck of Spiral Dynamics Integral, Brett Thomas from Stagen and the Integral Leadership Collaborative, Cindy Wigglesworth of Deep Change, Jeff Salzman of the Daily Evolver, Willow Dea and Sean Esbjorn-Hargens of MetaIntegral, and Jeff Carreira of EnlightenNext, just to name a few.

From the Integral Chicks p.o.v. (Kelly and Nicole), this was a most special gathering. Personally for us, it marked one of the first times we did not have responsibility in producing the event, which allowed us to be more present and engaged with the community that gathered. And what a community it was! We truly felt that this particular group really stood out in the amount of loving care, support, and excitement each person brought to the space. We had so many heart-felt connections. The We-space was delicious and palpable, and the conversations fruitful and cutting-edge. We came away feeling rested and ready to rock it out in the world. Well done, Team ILiA!!!

Feminine and Masculine Styles of Leadership

One of the hot topics at the event this year was masculine and feminine styles of leadership. It became quickly apparent that these terms were causing some level of confusion in the crowd. What do these terms mean? Are we talking about sex—male or female? Types? Energies? What???

We explored these inquiries in some of our video interviews, and we’ll be unpacking more of this in the coming weeks, but let’s set a bit of a context for how we like to use these terms.

First off, we are not conflating male and female with masculine and feminine. Male and female refer to sex and largely biological differences. In most cases, you can simply look at a person and tell their sex. While our biology undeniably has some effect on how we act in the world, each of us, whether male or female, have access to both masculine and feminine energies, essences or characteristics, and typically fall somewhere on a continuum between entirely masculine to entirely feminine in how we show up and navigate our world day-to-day. These are two of the most general and important types we can consider (types being one of the 5 primary lenses of Integral theory). The ideal practice for this territory seems to start by healthfully embodying our natural essence and then working to cultivate balance between both essences, thus being able to yield what is most called for in a given situation.

Some of the typical characteristics of the masculine include: autonomy, justice, agency, and goal or outcome-driven behavior and intention. Some of the typical characteristics of the feminine include: relationship, care, connection, and being with what is. Scaling out a bit, masculine and feminine are the two sides of the most fundamental polarity of existence. In every moment, we can be a witness to what is arising (masculine) and we are also able to be witnessed and seen (feminine). We breathe out to give life (masculine) and breathe in to receive life (feminine). Light (m) – Dark (f), Sun (m) – Moon (f), Seen (m) – Unseen (f), Yang (m) – Yin (f), the caduceus, and the sacred union of sexuality…all of these are allegories of the masculine and feminine polarity.

According to researcher Carol Gilligan, who studied development of the moral line, both men and women develop through 4 or 5 stages in their lifetime, but go through these stages in different voices, or according to a different logic, which seems to be more congruent with their biology. But, at the highest level of moral development:

…the masculine and feminine voices in each of us tend to become integrated. This does not mean that a person at this stage starts to lose the distinctions between masculine and feminine, and hence become a kind of bland, androgynous, asexual being. In fact, masculine and feminine dimensions might become more intensified. But it does mean the individuals start to befriend both the masculine and feminine modes in themselves, even if they characteristically act predominately from one or the other. – Ken Wilber, The Integral Vision, p.48

Thank you to Carol and Ken for laying down the framework for us! Now, how do we play within this territory? How do we cue into our tendencies and energies in the moment, and generate the most appropriate responses? How do we work with others who are not practicing with their typology? How do we learn from others who have explored this territory, through real world applications, and therefore are wiser in their ways?

That, folks, is one of the major inquiries the Integral Chicks have been focusing on and we hope to offer a little glimpse into this complex and fascinating world of Integral Feminine Leadership!

The Third Way: Integrated Leadership

We start this investigation with a dear old friend of ours, Victoria Wilson-Jones. We met Victoria when a big group (85 to be exact!) of Integral Women got together to practice ILP at the Omega Institute in New York, starting way back in 2005. Victoria, along with other powerhouse Integral Women like Sofia Diaz and Diane Musho Hamilton helped set the foundation for 5 years of these gatherings, and opened up the Integral Chicks’ hearts to their own exploration of femininity.

Victoria is an amazing women, one who we consider to be extremely well-balanced in her energies, capable of huge embrace and love whilst yielding a powerful sword of discernment and showing up with kick-ass action in the world. We love her and consider her a true role model for Integral women. Tune in as she talks about:

  • The Evolution of ILiA — a journey through masculine & feminine territory
  • The Shadow of Integral Leadership
  • The Juice of Creativity
  • The Third Way – An integration and balance of masculine & feminine

And, look for our future dialogues with Cindy Wigglesworth, Lynne Feldman, Willow Dea, and Mukti!

Victoria Wilson-Jones is an experienced mind/body/spirit educator and consultant. She has spent the last 27 years assisting individuals in connecting to their deepest authenticity. Victoria has a private practice that focuses on creating and deepening integrated practices that bring together body, mind, spirit, and emotions. She explores and works with the transformative energy of Spirit in many ways–through nature, writing, teaching, yoga and movement as well as through art. Victoria has a Master’s of Science degree in Metaphysical Philosophy from the American Institute of Holistic Theology. She is the founder and director of Sacred Circleâ„¢, In the Company of Spirit and Soul Quest to Sacred Spaces. Victoria is also a founding member and current president of the board of Integral Leadership in Action. Check out more of what Victoria’s up to here.

Kelly Sosan Bearer is the Co-founder of Integral Chicks. Previously, Kelly worked for Integral Institute/Integral Life from 2003-2012 and has been a student of Integral theory and practice since 1998. Kelly was ordained in 2007 as a Zen Monk in both the Soto and Rinzai schools of Zen Buddhism. She is a published author in the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice and completed her graduate studies at Naropa University with Masters in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology. She also goes by the alter ego DJ Sosan and has been dropping beats for the integral scene since 2005.

Nicole Fegley, MA is the Co-Founder of Integral Chicks. She is a Certified Integral Coach through Integral Coaching Canada, and has coached with Integral Life and the Integral Incubator. Nicole is the Co-founder, with her partner Clint Fuhs, of Core Integral Inc. A former restaurant owner, she worked for Integral Institute and Integral Life from 2005-2012, and has produced over 40 personal, professional, and spiritual events for the Integral community. Nicole is a senior student of Ken Wilber, studies Indo-Tibetan Buddhism with Daniel Brown and Hatha Yoga and Feminine Embodiment with Sofia Diaz.

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16 Responses to “Integral Chicks Investigates: Feminine Leadership”

  1. Bill Palmer
    May 24, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Certainly there was discussion of masculine and feminine leadership roles, but the spark point for that discussion was the concern of some present that the majority of speakers were male.  From my vantage point, the group did not seem to want to address that issue at all, and instead chose a more intellectualized discussion of masculine and feminine qualities relating to leadership.

  2. Gregor Bingham
    May 24, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Hi Kelly,


    I’d like to jump in with a deep question, which perhaps will
    be unpacked later in this series, but it has been burning in me for quite some
    time. Carol Gilligan’s latest book ‘Fighting the Resistance’ broadly expands on
    her original work from ‘In a Different Voice’ – 27 years after. The key points
    I believe that impact us now (as you both touched on in this video looking at
    this situation of Integral Leadership) is that Carol basically states that we
    are human – that all traits are human. The language of metaphorical feminine
    and masculine typology is confusingly reductionistic, I am paraphrasing
    horribly, but it appears profoundly undeniable. Those metaphors don’t work
    anymore, and I think we all know why. They lack nuance and relevance.


    As most Jungians, who love this language would say ‘we need
    new myth’s’. Myth’s require language that is rich and symbolic, and so we also
    need new symbols. As Ken points out, it isn’t androgyny, but it is human. Maybe
    we focus on that, how do we humanize all of us and end that split?


    My question is open of course. But if we drop masculine and
    feminine and replace there ‘attributes’ and convert them instead as lines of
    development, would that not be honoring and objective? What does care look like
    as a line? What does agency look like as line? What lines of development does a
    modern man or woman bring to the table? Now we don’t have to guess or project
    by gender so much: which is my point, masculine and feminine implies gender no
    matter how we slice and dice it, I don’t want to get rid of it from our ‘literature’,
    but it is not objective enough for our leadership task, for us to reconnect as
    a species, as human. IMHO.




  3. Nicole Kieler Fegley
    May 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    Hey Gregor, Nicole here…

    Thank you for your awesome question. It’s really got me burning with wonder too. I’m not yet sure how I feel about all of this. I don’t disagree at all with what you say, and somehow I also feel a loss at the thought of dropping those terms from our vocab, like they hold something really important for me.  But maybe a shared meaning around them is going to be too tough to arrive at. We did talk to a least one person that strongly agreed with your assessment, so more coming soon on that!  I think I’m gonna remain open to the question for the moment and get back to you as soon as I feel more strongly about it, and maybe talk to a few more people (am I a typical LL orienter or what, lol!)  Kelly and I were just saying we should talk with Ken and Sofia about this too, I think they’d have a lot to add to the convo. Thanks for raising this, good to see you here!!!! 

  4. Gregor Bingham
    May 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    Hey Nicole!
    Yeah, I know it’s provocative, my inner green is squirming, but… something to be transcended and included here, what I don’t know how/what! But I just sense that using F/M language in the populace is ‘jargon’ and thus linguistically problematic. Keeping it as a tool, seems constantly counter-productive, especially dealing with Gender Equality. 
    Thanks for taking it ‘upstairs’, now I’m worried. 🙂

  5. Kelly Sosan Bearer
    May 27, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    As good Integral scholars, does it make sense to get rid of the terms masculine and feminine? This is the messy part of AQAL if you ask me…Types! And where the real juice lies too. Some say get rid of the terms, they are too confusing and replace them with their
    qualities. Others say to move beyond them to “The Third Way” where we integrate our masculine and feminine and move towards a more androgynous or neutralized energetic space. And still others retort that to get rid of the terms or to move beyond them is a
    typology-bypass and we need to work with and inhabit our masculine and feminine energies before we can transcend them. Any other perspectives on this that I’m missing? Through my investigations of Integral Feminine Leadership, these are the three main responses I’ve received to this question so far. Curious what ya’ll think on this?

    And since the masculine/feminine conversation is soooo charged on all fronts, there must be something here for us as a community to look at, step into and enact. I’m up for the journey, but it’s going to start with some clean-up work first. Who’s ready to scrub some toilets? 😉

  6. Gregor Bingham
    May 27, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    I guess we can’t move beyond our types, but we can certainly move beyond our stereotypes. And even then we can only hold types lightly, it’s more of a problem as masc/fem are labels of gender as well as ‘style’, and will always have that embedded nature, thus the rub. Is the rub necessary? We can’t move beyond our biology but we can move beyond our conditioning. And alas I am no scholar, but I do like getting my hands dirty. I look forward to some discussion.

  7. Leslie Williams
    June 4, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    Thank you for this fabulous post!  

    These semantic questions have been at the center of my work now for three years.  When  communicating with folks who are familiar with integral theory and gender type research, I find that the terms ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are descriptive, well-understood and useful.  Things change, though, as we go into the client space.  In this context, where people are carrying battle scars from discrimination, litigation and diversity-conversations-gone-amok, (not to mention a largely Amber – Orange orientation), I find that the gender language is much more of a barrier than an on-ramp to understanding.  So even though the terms ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are key points on my internal GPS, I never use the language in my organizational work.  Instead I use the phrase “leading with grit and grace (TM),” which people seem to understand immediately and relate to with an open and curious stance. As for the “third way,” I am really struggling to name this in my own practice.  I can feel into it, but haven’t found a way yet to give it language.  But I believe that it would be a mistake to ‘retire’ the masculine-feminine polarity from our lexicon.  I think that would effectively take the distinction from object back into subject, which would make it even less likely to make a sustainable transcend-and-include journey into a third way.  

  8. Nicole Kieler Fegley
    June 5, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    Hey Leslie!!!! Thanks so much for checking us out here and adding to the conversation. And thank you personally for your incredible influence in my own journey to deeper embodiment of my full Self! You are one powerful and kick ass Integral chick!!!

    I really couldn’t have said it any better than you have here. I’ve been considering this for a number of weeks now, and feel like I’m really leaning into an exploration of my more feminine side, a part of me that is often not as felt, expressed and accepted as my more masculine side. I feel profoundly not ok with losing the terms in service of my practice, and my conversations with other Integral folks about it. That’s just me. 🙂

    And, I am hearing you and many others say that these terms just don’t work as effectively in certain circumstances, and I absolutely see that to be the case as well.

    So, I’m in favor of hanging on to the lexicon too, and wielding it in the most skillful ways we can.

    Thanks again for your beautiful articulation here!

    Love, Nicole

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