More and more, people are telling us they want to be more bold! They need to stand up and rise into a more assertive them, in order to own their moment, venture out of their comfort zone, show their brighter colors, and get buy-in.
Where do you need a bigger, badder, bolder you? What I’m hearing is:
“I’m hesitating from networking,” “I don’t look confident when I present,” “I don’t know how to start a conversation,” “I don’t want to make the ask,” “I need support from above,” “I don’t come across like a leader,” “I don’t speak up at meetings,” “I hold back my ideas even though I think they’re good,” “Whenever I need it, it’s not there.”
On the other end of the spectrum, folks will say, “I am too bold and shut other people down,” and “I don’t know where the line is between assertive and dominating.”
We’ve asked, “What’s in the way?” and we get a lot of answers that boil down to three issues:
- “I don’t want to ‘fake’ anything, and acting bold when I’m not doesn’t seem authentic.”
- “I’m scared, but too scared to admit it.”
- “I have a ‘fraud complex’ (also known as ‘imposter syndrome’) wherein I’ve bought into everyone else’s false fronts but not my own.”
It seldom pays to fake anything. Be real. Be yourself. And there’s nothing wrong with being scared. The bold aren’t fearless, they’re just scared and doing it anyway. That’s courage – which requires fear. And the best thing you can do about your fraud complex is to quit buying into everyone else’s false fronts. They’re just like you. We’re all figuring out life as we go.
Of course there are gender factors, diversity factors, experience factors, age factors, etc. Let’s allow those to exist, and take a moment to look at boldness from the point of view of two under-recognized ingredients.
YANG and YIN
Since the beginning of time, there’ve been two forces. The Yang (the masculine, often confused with “maleness,” which is inaccurate) is balanced by the Yin (the feminine, often confused with “femaleness,” which is equally inaccurate.) And for eons of time we’ve been living in a Yang world, where strength is valued over sensitivity, power is more important than compassion, and leadership is more about authority than influence.
Bold meant “command and conquer” (Which is like Yang²).
The classic variety of bold was the product of double-emphasizing its masculine side, which fed our old-school iconic view of leader as the take-charge “alpha male.”
This is a big problem in modern business culture because only a small portion of people who need to lead would view themselves as fitting the “alpha male” archetype. Certainly few women would view themselves as “alpha males.” How could they? The old-schooling that raised most of the working population today – the modeling of family, the absurdity of Hollywood media conditioning, and the incomplete “his story” accounting of everything that’s happened so far in history – leaves many men and women alike feeling they’ve fallen short of the basic prerequisite to “leadership.”
Addition to confusion around the masculine/feminine spectrum, boldness gets further confused by the misunderstandings around personality profiles. Wiley research, the source of DiSC, Social Styles, Insights and other personality inventories, tends to break personalities into one version or another of Driver, Expressive, Amiable, and Analytical. The classic Yang² bold naturally fits the Driver personality, adding to the confusion over born leaders and born followers. People think they can’t be leaders, when in fact they simply can’t be a leader in the classic flavor that Drivers tend to be naturally. Analyticals can lead, but they can’t be drivers, any more than I can be you instead of being me.
Enter the Age of Balance
There’s a transition happening, in part because we’ve moved from the industrial age to the information age, and also related to the well-established presence of women in the workplace. We also have an ever-increasing value emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and generational differences between Boomers and X’ers and Millennials who all inhabit the same workplace.
If you’re not hearing about this, start listening for it. The “masculine age” is shifting toward a more “feminine age,” or at the very least (my personal hope) an age of balance. Call it “masculine and feminine.” Or call it “yang and yin.” Or call it “command and nurture.” This age needs a different flavor of boldness in order to work.
I have dubbed this updated flavor The New Bold, which is what is usually, if not always, the solution when it comes to men and women hoping to rise up authentically to have more influence.
The New Bold leaves room for what the Yang² bold did not, and as a result, it’s accessible to the Expressive, the Amiable, and the Analytical as well as the Driver. It works for men and women. It crosses diversity lines.
The idea is this: Masculinity and femininity are traits, qualities, competencies, and attributes of both men and women. We all have our stronger and softer sides. We all draw from data and intuition. We all can make hard decisions and show compassion.
The active and conscious pursuit of a yang/yin or masculine/feminine, command/nurture balance activates more of your real self so you can be a “full-spectrum person” and influence more people.
There isn’t a “method” per se, as much as there’s a recognition that we can be more complete than we are, and there’s room for more than a “false front” in modern boldness.
In my view, after working for 16+ years with professionals in business, it seems that women today are a little more “full spectrum” than men today. The women’s movement has clearly brought women into their masculinity, without asking them to give up their femininity. Men are still largely where they’ve been forever – aware only of their masculinity and learning to sharing the space it creates with the women who are joining them in droves.
If you want to see real change (or the next level of it), men are going to have to see the impressive feat that women have taken on, and join them in the active crossover to claim the feminine that’s in us but not on our radar.
Note that this is different from what millions of men who are sympathetic and supportive of the women’s movement are doing. Supportive men are encouraging women to share their masculine space with them. That’s great, but what men are not doing is crossing over themselves to learn what the feminine side has for them. This difference is massive, because men are sharing “their side” of life, but not expanding themselves, and that is causing a compression of men at the far extreme edge of masculinity, particularly within the men who don’t sympathize with the women’s movement.
So the next step in the gender equity movement is going to require the expansion of men into a more full-spectrum human being than the generations before them.
Let me speak to just the men out there for a moment: Men, in my humble opinion, the women today should be our role models because, even though it still sucks for them in a lot of ways, they are more full-spectrum than we are. If you’re not ready for that, let’s all take a look at what makes amazing, bold, leaders today.
This may not be an exhaustive list, but the qualities are going to include:
- Can step up under pressure and make a decision
- Can empathize and actually care about the people they lead and serve
- Can motivate others and argue a point of view
- Can listen actively and facilitate to others
- Can make the hard decisions that weed “not good enough” out
- Can nurture the hidden talents and ideas to fruition
I’m inclined to go on for another hundred bullets, but I’m seeing a balance here. And some simple things you can work on to strike this balance include:
- Learning to present and persuade (the push), but also facilitate (the pull).
- Working on your emotional intelligence. That’s huge in building intuition. Talk about feelings and how they sway decisions, serve as the power source of change, and help you see what people are thinking, even when they’re not talking.
- Work on your storytelling to recognize the problems, solutions, and outcomes inherent in any point of view.
- Step up more, putting yourself and your point of view in plain view to get used to the pressure.
- Fail more, and do it publicly, then share openly what learning lessons the failure has given you.
- Empathize more, not just inside your head, but with your heart, and express it to those you empathize with.
- Recognize the constructive powers of affirming happily, and sharing pain sadly, and showing your seriousness or conviction with a touch of mad to show you mean it.
- Appreciate people as you interact with them, actively, to create the universal base tone of the nurturing communication environment.
That’s as “prescriptive” as I’m willing to be in this post. I probably went too far already. If you like this topic, I’d be happy to explore with you further, and go deeper with it. My intent here is to put an idea on your radar and hope you’ll talk with us, and with each other about it.
As I see men and women step up and succeed, there’s less “born leader” and more “individual development” than I saw at the turn of the century. Bold influencers who are men are looking more like the bold leaders who are women. There’s less gender distinction, except that I see women today striking a better and more approachable balance in their strength, only because classic “Driver” men are leaving out their feminine qualities. I’m seeing Analytical and Amiable personalities looking more like Drivers and Expressives. I’m seeing balance as being more powerful in reaching more people than the old-school bold that is landing closer to scary or ridiculous.
The New Bold is a full-spectrum commitment to find more of yourself and bring it more fully to bear, instead of hiding more of yourself and bringing half of what’s needed. Command and Nurture is more complete, involves more of you, and results in a more authentic version of strength that can burn like a candle and warm the room in the process.
Your thoughts now.
Leave a Comment
New Release! Our new book Winning AEC Interviews is now available!