Feminine and Masculine
Together in Business
by Fanny Norlin, who included an
invitation for readers to get in touch at
From the originals at:
Above title and word highlight colours added by Simon Grant.
1: Feminine leadership in business
2: The Feminine and the decentralized paradigm
3: Working with Source: Awakening the Feminine and Honoring the Masculine
4: Bringing it into practice
The valley spirit never dies. It is named the mysterious feminine. And the doorway of the mysterious feminine is the base from which heaven and earth sprang. It is there within us all this while. Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry.
— Tao Te Ching
This is the first part of an article series where I share insights and experiences from living feminine leadership in the business world. For ten years, I have been working in the world of progressive business, passionately exploring all aspects of self-organizing and decentralized leadership. Five years ago, I was introduced to Lovisa Alsén's path of Awakening Feminine Leadership which set me on a deep exploration of the dynamics of feminine and masculine leadership in business. In this article series, I want to share with you how the power of the awakened feminine, when fruitfully backed by the masculine, is key to realizing ideas and succeeding in the emerging business landscape. How this kind of leadership can make our initiatives and ourselves come alive and, rather than merely survive, allow us to tap into pleasure and honorably thrive in chaotic times. These insights are based on my own experiences of living this leadership approach in the business world, as well as the experiences of other women and men in the new frontier of feminine and masculine leadership.
Since a young age, I have been interested in progressive technology and leadership. I have one master’s degree in engineering and one in management. At university, I founded self-organized initiatives, and when I realized there was a whole field within business following principles that had intuitively emerged for me, I declined interviews at McKinsey to follow my heart and passion. So I spent the early years of my career diving into the world of progressive leadership – working with everything from start-ups to larger businesses and even within the realm of politics. But even though I was working at the leading edge, I had a sense that important dimensions were lacking in this new world of organizing. It seemed to me that we were never fully able to thrive in more progressive ways of working; there was the consulting firm with beautiful loving values but where the climate became harsh, stressed, and toxic as soon as customer deadlines came close, or the decentralized political party that in theory had the perfect design but in reality never seemed to be able to accomplish real change. On a collective level, I witnessed how most decentralized ways of leadership often burned out with the energy of a few people in the core, collapsing under confusion, power struggles, and a general feeling of “we are not quite there yet”.
On a personal level, although I had been questioning the worldview underlying the mainstream business world, I was still too deep into what I now recognize as a toxic masculine mode of achievement. I was struggling to leave behind a destructive way of building my self-worth solely based on my performance. In addition, I was trying very hard to change and save the world – what I now recognize as my shadow feminine. I had a lot of fire, but I often felt stuck and overwhelmed, which caused me to push even harder. I found my inner flame burning out and my body more and more drained.
Five years ago, Lovisa Alsén introduced me to her leadership path Awakening Feminine Leadership. I still wonder why I accepted her invitation. At the time, I still carried internalized, mostly unconscious, stories about the feminine being weak, and I wasn’t especially attracted to identifying as feminine. In addition, I had adopted the world view of the queer scene around gender strictly being a social construct, and to start thinking in terms of masculine and feminine as energies with specifically embodied essences felt confusing. But, even though my brain was perplexed, my body felt called to take the course. And what a call it was – this six-week deep immersion into the sensual, powerful, and alive feminine had the most profound impact on me as a woman and as a leader. Lovisa’s practice brought me back to my body, my power, and my playfulness. It showed me my ability to flirt with life and let me reconnect with my life force. It has helped me to transition from being exhausted from trying to please others, and instead allowed me to access the superpowers of being highly sensitive and the ability to bring to life whatever is called through me. Even though I could not cognitively fully grasp how and why, my being just knew that this leadership was a big part of what is still missing in the progressive business world.
Since then, I have followed Lovisa’s path closely as well as integrated the practices deeper and deeper with my experiences of progressive leadership and decentralized organizing. The more I experience this way of leading, the more I witness how central this dimension of the feminine is to fully unlock and unleash a new paradigm of business. A few months after I took that first course I really started to bloom and was asked to join the management team of one of Sweden’s largest e-commerce groups. For four years I lived and led this feminine leadership as Chief Marketing Officer, from the feminine in my body and being. My transformation and the impact I started to have on my colleagues and the organization at large were profound.
During this journey I have synthesized a model that explains what role the feminine and masculine play and how they collaborate in any creative process, and how these roles are especially essential to succeed with decentralized initiatives. This framework cuts through the tensions and dichotomies that we often get stuck in when looking at the masculine and feminine, and it seems to hold crucial keys to unlock the next paradigm of business.
Before being introduced to Lovisa’s work I did not have access to any perspectives where it made sense to apply the lens of feminine and masculine. The only descriptions I knew of were shallow one-dimensional characterizations of the polarity. If you google feminine and masculine leadership, masculine leadership is described as confident, assertive, and egoistic, and feminine leadership as receptive, vulnerable, and caring. I was drawn to neither of these crude representations. When I took the first course in awakening feminine leadership, I was able to, for the first time in my life, deeply and consistently access a feminine being that truly felt like coming home. Likewise, it wasn't until after I had begun to bloom in my feminine leadership that I was able to see the masculine for what he truly can be.
My experiences of the deeper, and to me more true, dimensions of the feminine and what impact she can have on the masculine, made me able to see that there are more complex interrelationships at play than mainstream culture teaches. I realized that rather than the masculine and feminine merely being in polarity with each other, there are strong polarities _within_ both the masculine and the feminine. In creative processes, these poles within the feminine and the masculine make their most powerful contribution at different stages.
Within the masculine, the pole or dimension that we are most used to relate to is what I call the Creating Masculine. This is the masculine that takes action, creates change, is passionate, driven, and has the energy of getting things done. Although we often reduce the masculine to this one-dimensional concept, the more I have stepped into my feminine the more I have experienced the polarity to the Creating Masculine; what I call the Holding Masculine. The Holding Masculine can be described as a large tree or a mountain: stable and supportive, no matter the stormy weather. This masculine pole is present, grounded and holding space, listening and clarifying and creating direction. Even though the creating and the Holding Masculine energies are wildly different, they are both very masculine, and they both need to be honored and utilized.
Before moving on to the feminine, I would like to shine some light on the feminine's nature. Feminine leadership cannot be understood with the mind, it needs to be experienced through our bodies. Moreover, feminine leadership is a way of being, not something that we do. These two characteristics of the feminine make it impossible to fully understand her through an intellectual concept or model.
There is however still a point in having a map or intellectual concepts that help explain how utterly the feminine, as well as dimensions of the masculine are missing in the business world. A model can help us more clearly see what consequences this is having on our organizations and businesses, as well as to understand how crucial this feminine leadership is for the emerging digital, networked and decentralized business landscape.
Especially in a business context, it is important to keep emphasizing the impossibility of fully understanding the feminine with intellect only. The business world has a strong bias towards the masculine, both structurally and culturally – for example, how we measure success is very masculine both in form and content. For me, one of the most difficult parts of fully stepping into my feminine, has been letting go of the need for the masculine to understand me and approve of me.
From a masculine viewpoint, the feminine can never be fully understood. And more so, through a masculine lens, the mysterious nature of the feminine is at the core of the creative tension and dance between the two. If the masculine is not at least a little intimidated by the feminine, it is not the real deal. Consequently, if the feminine acts from a place of trying to get approval from the masculine, she loses her power.
When I now introduce a model that helps you intellectually “understand” the feminine, there is a pressing risk that part of you will affirm this model more than the felt experience in your body, and the more subtle, unexplainable, non-verbal dimensions of the feminine. Therefore, I invite you to be aware of this risk, to prevent that we continue to subordinate the feminine by fitting her in a masculine explanatory frame. I invite you to take in this model with some protective holding of your inner embodied truth of the intangible, non-verbal and mysterious feminine nature. As well as some playful consciousness of the absurdity of flattening the wild, powerful feminine life force at the root of all creation into a model on a screen.
When it comes to the feminine, the shallow and one-dimensional description of feminine leadership as receptive, vulnerable and caring, is very far from my experience of leading from my feminine. The more I experience, the more it becomes clear how rare true feminine leadership is in the business world. As with the masculine, there are two quite distinct states of the feminine.
In contrast to how she is often portrayed, as merely the passive listener or caretaking nurturer, the role of the feminine in any lifegiving, creative process – be that the birth of a child, the designing of a product or the building of a website – is being the ultimate source of creativity itself. Every creative cycle starts with the feminine being the lifesource and energy that calls everything into life. This initiating energy gives us access to what we do not already know. It acts as a channel for the creative energy, and it is what I call the Creating Feminine.
Towards the end of a creative cycle, the feminine shifts from being the call or the lifesource into becoming the whole and the unifier. This state, which I call the Holding Feminine, is also what lets the cycle die when time has come, bringing us to the start of the next cycle. From a feminine perspective however, the Creating Feminine and the Holding Feminine cannot be separated and are not in polarity. Rather, they are in a cyclical relation to one another. The Creating Feminine cannot come to life without the Holding Feminine guiding us back into the void, and the Holding Feminine’s power comes from the life force sourced from the Creating Feminine. The Holding Feminine comes into existence when the Creating Feminine has been fully activated, creating the fullness that is the Holding Feminine. In other words, when a woman's body is filled up by her own life force, she becomes the Holding Feminine.
Rather than trying to be one or the other the feminine needs to surrender into what is true for this moment. Feminine leadership cannot be done or performed, it can only be. It is not about changing into something else, it is about remembering who we really are. Feminine leadership comes through deep embodiment; an awakened life force energy, strong core, open heart and a felt knowing of your true nature as the source of life.
As you might start to understand, this feminine is difficult to describe in words, it needs to be experienced. To get you as far as possible with language alone, I recommend that you read this article written by Lovisa and me. Here is an excerpt:
When we as women lead from a playful, conscious, and sacred sexual energy with a heart connection, it connects us with our inner strength, allowing us to desire, create and call in what we want, which creates movement AND clear delineation and differentiation. We are then able to seduce anything and everything into being without effort. If this sounds like it might be too good to be true, we encourage you to try it yourself. We, as two intellectuals who mainly used to live in our heads, keep discovering the surprising power that comes from being turned on. And how it exponentially increases the more women that connect to it. It is like a super-power we never even knew existed. The power that is liberated through an embodied turn-on creates a powerful hereness — a particular form of mindfulness — in contrast to a leaning-forward motion of performance, of wanting to merge or save someone/something. When we as women are turned-inward and connected to our life force, our turn-on, we can stand in our integrity with a deep sense of self — which together creates the call and shows us how our jobs can go from disconnect and meaninglessness to a true meaningful homecoming and a sense of joy and aliveness.
True feminine leadership is rare and little known, and the business world is so steeped in the masculine that even when feminine leadership is exercised, it is so far from our common notion of leadership that we don’t even acknowledge it as such.
Before I move on, let me lay out my view on gender. I believe that gender is both biologically anchored and socially constructed. My stance is that women and men have both the feminine and the masculine within us — including the two sub-poles of the masculine and the cyclical feminine. Thus I embrace a socially constructed view on gender, as well as acknowledge the deep damage that can come from throwing biological arguments at dynamics stemming from social constructs.
At the same time, the biological difference between men and women, such as differing genitals and hormones, does make us wired differently in important ways. If we do not acknowledge how women’s bodies are different from men’s, we will keep designing societies mainly fit for male bodies. Since true feminine leadership is sourced from our bodies, such scenarios are severely disempowering for women. Moreover, the elimination of the feminine polarities will in the long run be harmful for societal development at large. Without embodying and thriving in our differences, we will not be able to unleash that creative potential that lies between the polarities. Thus, I believe that the way forward is the ability to hold both the social constructs and the biological differences to be true at the same time.
It was through years of studying Lovisa Alsén’s teachings, witnessing other women on the path, hours of exploratory conversation on the topic with Lovisa as well as years of practicing and experiencing the feminine and masculine in different leadership and business contexts that I could identify the often lacking dimensions of the creating feminine and holding masculine, and lay out the full polarities map. Through Lovisa I was also introduced to fellow teachers, priestesses and sacred seductresses such as Layla Martin and Mama Gena, all supporting the return of the creating feminine in women, and to Sally Kempton’s work in Awakening Shakti where she explains the life creating collaboration between the creating feminine of Shakti and the holding masculine of Shiva.
As the dimensions became increasingly clear in my lived experiences, I realized that the map of polarities had been growing in me for a long time. I had been looking through different lenses that uncovered the dimensions within it for years. For example, in my master’s thesis I applied Ryan and Deci’s Self-Determination Theory (made popular by Daniel Pink) to adult development theories like Robert Kegan’s framework and Spiral Dynamics and discovered the cyclical flow of development between autonomy and relatedness, and the linear development flow of competence. It wasn’t until I reconnected to the feminine in me through Lovisas teachings, that I was able to connect the cyclical and the linear to the feminine and masculine and synthesize the full picture.
As the four dimensions of the cyclical feminine and linear masculine started emerging as a mental model for me, through experiencing them in my business and leadership contexts, I started to recognize them also in the other teachings on leadership I had taken in over the past ten years, adding further nuance and validation to the model. I found the four energies, polarities, or dimensions in the four gods of Bard and Söderqvist's Syntheism, in the four Jungian archetypes of Mankind Project and Women in Power’s Shadow Work, as well as in the four polarities of Kastenbaum's Diamond Leadership model that I was introduced to during my time at the management consulting firm Centigo. Lastly, the model is influenced by Peter König's work around Source, taught to me by Tom Nixon over the past 8 years. The source perspective supports the polarities map and has deepened my understanding of the Creating Feminine and Holding Masculine and how they collaborate to initiate creation.
Ever since I discovered these four energies, I find them everywhere, in practice and in frameworks across all fields – they seem to be the core energies of life. The Creating Feminine is the autonomy and the void, the Holding Feminine is the unity and the everything, the Holding Masculine is the stillness and the Creating Masculine is the movement. They are the fuel and the process of life. The cyclical and the linear. Tension arises when we are only seeing and sourcing from one or two of them, and making the others wrong, rather than fully unleashing each dimension in its full power, in collaboration, and with the right dimension leading the right phase of a creative endeavour.
The more I experienced them in the progressive business world, the more clear these four dimensions became. After yet another typical conversation with a colleague about an organization that he was supporting, the last puzzle pieces fell into place and I understood and felt how the creating and holding feminine and masculine, fit together in the creative process. And how we suffer and struggle when any are absent and/or unbalanced.
The organization my colleague was helping was stuck in obsessive doing; there was a lack of direction, people were burning out and the climate felt harsh and destructive. His evaluation was that they needed more of the feminine in the organization because he observed them having too much of what I now call the Creating Masculine energy. Soon I realized, however, that he was only requesting the Holding Feminine, totally missing out on the Creating Feminine. I instinctively knew that this alone would not sustainably solve the organization's challenges.
In today’s business world, as we are developing beyond the creating-masculine-dominated industrial paradigm, the situation my colleague came to me for help with is very common. My story as told in the beginning of this text is not unique. I am far from alone in acknowledging that we have “too much” of the Creating Masculine on both a personal, organizational and societal level. The overdoing that “excess” creates is often referred to as toxic masculinity; we are moving too fast, getting too focused on money, lacking a meaningful purpose, not taking care of our people and making priorities too short term – quite literally we are burning up the planet.
And just like my colleague, many would agree that the solution is to bring in more of the feminine. And just like for him, the only feminine that we know of, and dare to invite, is the Holding Feminine; we talk about listening more, slowing down, following our intuition and being more caring. But when the Holding Feminine is not sourcing her power, or “filled up”, from the Creating Feminine, who in turn is not supported by the Holding Masculine, what we are left with is a disempowered Holding Feminine. This energy manifests as a collapsed mothering figure that is just trying to subdue the toxic Creating Masculine. Rather than being a feminine leader in her power, she just wants to slow things down and overemphasizes making sure everyone feels heard, feels safe, and gets along – similar to a stressed mother who is trying to get her kids to behave.
This disempowered version of the Feminine will not be able to make much difference. Most organizations that are trying to bring in more of “the Feminine” are really struggling. Without the Creating Feminine and the Holding Masculine, huge tensions arise between the toxic Creating Masculine and the described collapsed Holding Feminine.
Most “feminine” initiatives in the business world will never work, because they aim to remove the masculine instead of understanding how to empower both the feminine and masculine and grow a thriving collaboration between the two. In the name of moving away from a toxic results-driven culture we focus on creating a caring culture. With the Creating Feminine and Holding Masculine absent, this ultimately leads to stagnation, lack of direction and a destructive slowing down of the core business. Aggregated to a societal level the disempowered Holding Feminine creates a politically correct wet blanket over creativity, entrepreneurship and ultimately autonomy and free speech (societally reflected in the radical left).
Soon, with too much of this Holding Feminine, the masculine feels shamed and excluded and as red numbers in the bottom line start showing, the toxic Creating Masculine reacts by kicking in again with even more force (societally reflected in the alt right). This cycle repeats again and again, with at best constant tension between the two, and at worst societal cultural war between radical feminist at one extreme and alt-right incels on the other.
This dysfunctional dynamic lies at the root of most common struggles in progressive and decentralized organizations, who are trying to bring in more of the feminine, such as struggling to focus on results and on a caring culture, a flourishing bottom line and purposefully contributing to the world, individual autonomy and collective unity.
Dark indeed, but, let us not lose all hope for humanity just yet. The stark contrast between this common situation my colleague was describing and the thriving teams I had experienced, made me realize the patterns that are at play when collaboration between the masculine and the feminine is flourishing. I have seen what is possible when we are able to step into a flourishing and supporting collaboration between the masculine and the feminine and have experienced the profound impact in terms of creativity, efficiency and collaboration within a team. The times when I and the other women on the path of Awakening Feminine Leadership have stood fully in what I now call the Creating Feminine, the energy that we embody seems to call men into stepping into the Holding Masculine. This is the dynamic that we need more of. When synthesizing observations and experiences, I see clearly a pattern of how the four dimensions interact in all flourishing creative processes.
A creative process starts with the Creating Feminine embodying the life force. By being and embodying the life source, the feminine opens up the creative field. This creates attraction, and opens the creative energy to be able to flow into the project. When we initiate a project from a deep embodiment of the Creating Feminine, life force, creativity and energy is flooded into the project. If you ever walk into an office and get the feeling “wow there is a lot of life here!”, you are about to witness the presence of the Creating Feminine. All effective processes of realizing something need to start with this Creating Feminine being the call. It is the Creating Feminine that can tap into that which we do not already know, and without her we cannot create anything truly new. Only when a process is initiated by the feminine that embodies this life force, will it become truly creative, purposeful and in service of life.
The Creating Feminine embodies the energy that initiates any creative process, and by that, she is calling in the Holding Masculine, to step into service and to hold space. He is called in to set up the container that the feminine can surrender within, and allow the life force and creative power to come through her. One man explained this as “when I am around that energy it makes me want to become the best version of myself”. The more the masculine can hold, the deeper the feminine can surrender into being the call. And the more the feminine embodies the call the more the masculine is called in to hold – to become the best version of himself.
When the Creating Feminine is embodying the creative life force, the Holding Masculine is able to sense and receive the vision for the endeavor making the intangible creative energy tangible and actionable. When the two meet, a project is born and direction is created – a will and vision for something that wants to come to life. These experiences are aligned with the principle from ‘Shakti tantra’ where the feminine is seen as the life source and the masculine as the holding consciousness. From here the Holding Masculine can sense the clear, meaningful direction and actionable vision that is truly serving what wants to be born, at a deeper creative level than simply what will create the most short term profit.
When the Creating Masculine in turn is guided by this deeper vision and purpose, he is free to fully unleash all of his creative manifesting building power into the endeavor, without him becoming toxic, but rather being truly in service of something larger than himself.
In this manifesting phase, and as the feminine is more and more filled up with life force, she gradually shifts from embodying the call to embodying the whole, which keeps the energy of the project collected and the group united. She also has the role of knowing when the end of a process is approaching. She will discern when the vision is complete, when the project has been built to its full scope, and when it is time to start the creative cycle over again.The Creating Masculine, with his passionate and driven energy will just want to keep building. He needs direction from the Holding Masculine to build the right thing and the guidance from the Holding Feminine to keep on track and to stop in time.
When the Holding Feminine is empowered, she keeps the team connected and guides and guards the life cycle of the project like a panther, who has the respect of the Creating Masculine simply through her pure powerful presence. When the Holding Feminine stands in her power, the Creating Masculine will neither want nor dare to stray away from the deeper purpose in pursuit of money, power or fame.
This way of telling the creation story is a feminine one. From a cyclical feminine perspective all creative processes start with the Creating Feminine sourcing the life force. When she is met by the present consciousness of the Holding Masculine direction is created. This direction can then be executed upon by the Creating Masculine. During the execution phase the creative energy is kept together by the Holding Feminine that also makes sure we go back to the Creating Feminine when the creation process is done and it is time for the next creative cycle to start. Illustrated the flow looks something like this:
However, when I shared this story with men, I was sometimes met with confusion. I realized that the same story can also be told from a linear masculine perspective. From a masculine lens, creation starts with the masculine grounding in the Holding Masculine. When he is present and grounded he is ready to surrender into the unknown and receive inspiration from the Creating Feminine. From here he goes up into the Holding Feminine to look outward and make sure the inspiration he received is truly serving the whole and turn the inspiration into actionable direction. With this direction he moves into the Creating Masculine and executes. When the execution is done this creative process or project is over and he can again step into the Holding Masculine to receive inspiration for the next mission. The illustration then looks like this:
Both are equally true and are always happening at the same time, like the particle and wave, depending on what perspective you are looking at a creative process from. As we move from abstraction back into practice, you will always have to choose one lens. In my writing I will mainly keep using the feminine lens, as it is more unusual and most longing for a voice. Either way, which dimension comes first is not as important as always keeping the polarity between the Creating Feminine and Holding Masculine in the first phase and the polarity of the Creating Masculine and Holding Feminine in the last phase of a creative process.
In order to make this model and perspectives less abstract, here are two stories from women who have been practicing Awakening Feminine Leadership the past years. The feminine is best understood through experience, and cannot and should not be measured. Thus, I am aware that they are highly anecdotal and I do not share these stories to prove anything. But hopefully, hearing their stories can give you a better felt sense of how these masculine and feminine energies play out in the business world.
One story is from when I was leading the marketing and the techteam at a company, I was co-leading them with a man who is also deep into men’s work. Leading the team together made it possible for him to lean more into the masculine and me to lean more into the feminine and still hold all relevant perspectives for both teams. It wasn’t really something we consciously decided or spoke about, it just emerged that way. We worked in sprints and for each sprint we would start each sprint by slowing down, really listening and making sure that we were grounded in what was to be done from this deeper place. When we had clarity, this would then set the team into doing. When the team was in execution mode I was more in a place of holding space. I didn’t really consciously try and do something specific, it was a more state of being. Simply by me holding that feminine energy in the team created a sense of unity and alignment. It helped the team to be able to really lean into executing mode because they knew that they were working within a container that was being held, and that when it was done there would be closure and we would start the process again.
Another woman shares:
“My strongest experience of my feminine lifeforce seeding creative fuel, direction and clarity was when I supported a CEO of a large tech company. He had a big, highly complex vision for his company that he had been working to realize for 10 years. He was very much operating from executing energy of the Creating Masculine and was deep into the everyday operations of the business. During these years he had never seemed to be able to unite the organization around the vision. When we started working together and I stepped in with this awakened feminine energy, it called him to start step away from constant doing and instead lean back into a more grounded masculine. From there we worked together on clarifying the larger vision and a strategic 25-year road map for the company. When we presented it to the rest of the organization from this place I got the feedback that for the first time in ten years, they fully understood what they were actually part of building and how what they were building now fit into a long term vision. And it wasn’t just that they understood it with their minds, people were sharing how it was the first time they could feel the vision, that they felt drawn to it. This work laid the foundation for unleashing the kind of organization and way of working that the CEO had been longing for and dreaming about for years.”
In this story you can see the intangible quality of the feminine working in the deeper layers, creating a deeper motivation and creative guidance. How she calls the masculine into stepping into a more grounded place. And how when the two meet, the direction that comes out has the quality of guiding in a way that fuels motivation, supports creative authority and provides clarity and common direction without stifling autonomy.
The more examples like this I experience or hear of, the more clear it becomes how crucial the powerful presence of all four dimensions are for businesses today to succeed. Having a thriving collaboration between the four dimensions has always been beneficial to an enterprise. However, in the emerging decentralized paradigm of the internet age, it will be difficult to survive without it. The industrial paradigm has been run mainly by the Creating Masculine. Which in many ways worked well; in the industrial age you basically needed one good idea to build a Creating Masculine production machine that could produce that product ever more efficiently. Creativity was initially needed to identify the market need, but once that was done, to succeed in penetrating the market, success came down to execution and grit.
As we are leaving a machine-like production era and entering a network age where those who can attract people, data and resources are the ones that will succeed. We need to become highly adaptable and innovative to keep up with the rate of change that is unlike anything we have seen before. In the network age, with its information overload requiring attracting relevance and rapid change requiring adaptability, success lies in the ability to constantly be innovating and repeating the creative cycle between the feminine and masculine.
Without the lifesourcing Creating Feminine at the core, backed by the Holding Masculine we will keep seeing more of the power struggles, loss of motivation, fragmented direction and burnt out employees as decentralized initiatives attempt to grow. An awakened feminine leadership is needed to create the gravitational field that will enable you to most efficiently utilize the decentralized world of the Internet and attract the right resources, employees and customers. A Creating Feminine that is supported by the Holding Masculine to tap in to the creativity that will fuel your initiative as well as create the direction and clarity needed to navigate and thrive in the chaos and information overload of the attention economy.
Discovering and unleashing the four dimensions of the masculine and feminine has been a wild ride. What happens with people, groups and organizations around me the more I start showing up in my true embodied feminine is, often intimidatingly, magical. I have seen how creating with all four energies in place makes profound business results possible, and vastly increases an organization’s capacity to navigate uncertain waters. At the same time, we are making possible healing, expansion and love between the feminine and the masculine – a healing that most of us are deeply consciously or unconsciously longing for.
In one way it can be deeply disheartening to take in the amount of misunderstanding between the masculine and feminine as well as their suppression in the business world and in society at large. But, in another way, imagine all the lush, heart-expanding, fierce, creative potential we have yet to tap into…
This text has been edited from rock to diamond by the brilliant writing queens Hannah Ohm and Åsa Jonsson.
As women, we need to examine the ways in which our world can be truly different. I am speaking here of the necessity for reassessing the quality of all the aspects of our lives and of our work, and of how we move toward and through them. The very word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspects – born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony. When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.
— Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic
As the internet interconnected the world globally, it shifted the fundamental aspects of the business world. The dynamics are shifting away from one-way communication and from large corporations pushing products to their customers to interconnected networks where everyone can communicate and collaborate with each other.
Right now, this dynamic is deepening. Web3, with its blockchain powered technology, enables initiatives that, from the start, have an operating system and infrastructure built for decentralization and self-organizing. As initiatives which are built with network paradigm logics at the core enter the market, incumbents that are clinging to Web2 central ownership or even pre-internet logics will have a very hard time. In addition to being outcompeted when it comes to relevance and rate of innovation, companies will be chanceless in attracting the internet native generations Z and Alpha, who have a networked worldview running through their veins.
In this emerging game the winners are the ones who manage to build businesses that enable and leverage the enormous network based resource of interaction and collaboration between employees, partners and customers. In other words; the ones who create the platforms and networks on which users are pulled into becoming co-creative partners.
In addition to defining the key to success for individual initiatives, Web3 is defining the architecture of the internet and will set the foundation for what kind of world we will be able to create for generations to come.
With the new ruling currencies – participation and attention – determining your endeavor’s success, you will need women on board; specifically women empowered in their feminine. Success in Web3 will be dependent on a strong feminine leadership that can fuel your adaptability and create the gravitational field that will enable you to grow vigorously and thrive in the decentralized world of the Internet, by attracting the right employees, users, partners, and resources – including money. Also, in order to create a regenerative world at large, Web3 needs to be built in fruitful collaboration between alive feminine and mature masculine leadership. To thrive individually and collectively, we need an awakened feminine that is supported by a grounded masculine in service. Intrigued? I will soon dive deeper into these claims, but first, let’s take a look at the current landscape of Web3.
Today, the blockchain, crypto and Web3 world has a heavy over-representation of young men. Agewise, 94% of all crypto is traded by people under the age of 40 and 70% of the world's crypto users are men. Although this does sound worrying for gender equality, it is actually not that surprising and doesn't have to be something bad in itself.
Regardless of how much technology and society has evolved in the last few centuries, our core biology took thousands of years to develop into its current form. We still have the same biology and psyche affecting much of how we act in the world as we did living in tribes. In the tribe it was always the young men, with a body filled up with testosterone and with a psyche very prone to risk-taking, that explored the new hunting grounds. Today far away woods are simply replaced by the world of blockchain, crypto and Web3.
However, a defining difference between our current situation and tribal life is that in the tribe, these young men had huge respect for the women and male elders of the tribe. The women and male elders were the ones who both guided the men on where to most purposefully hunt and those who called them back to share their catch and integrate new learnings with the tribe. Back then, the young men understood their need for guidance from the feminine and the elders and they understood how hollow and deprived of meaning a life in the woods with a lot of meat but no connection to something bigger than themselves and a tribe would be.
Thus, the mere fact that young men are overrepresented in today's high risk, chaotic, cowboy landscape of crypto and Web3 is not surprising nor worrying per se. What is worrying is the disconnect between these young men in the Web3 world and the guidance from the feminine and the elder masculine. We lack women who are awakened to their feminine power and we lack men who have stepped into a guiding masculine role.
That more women are needed in the tech scene is not a new claim. But the understanding of what a mature masculine is and the claim that more feminine women are needed is.
This is a provocative topic. The battle for women has in the past centuries been a battle to rightfully receive an equal place at the table and to not be negatively treated differently. It is due to the fact that we have come so far when it comes to women’s rights in highly egalitarian cultures like Sweden, that some of us now have the privilege to deepen the women's movement, on top of these hygiene conditions. In societies where we are reaching closer to a culture valuing men and women as equally vital in all of their forms, we can now afford to transcend the idea that men and women are basically all the same and with this start creating conditions for both men and women to truly thrive in their differences.
Fighting for our right to be present at the table has often meant stepping into very masculine shoes. In the tech scene it is no different. Many women, including me, have owed our success to adopting masculine ways of being and doing. Although this might truly be a great path for many women, it does not bring in the much needed feminine into organizations, and it is draining for many women who choose to fit their feminine nature in a masculine frame. I and many women around me have gone through varying levels of burn out throughout our careers when doing our best in corporate cultures dominated by masculine norms.
At the same time many women, including just a slightly younger version of myself, do not feel drawn at all to the feminine. I believe this is part due to the often very shallow one-dimensional characterizations of both the masculine and the feminine. If you google feminine and masculine leadership, masculine leadership is described as confident, assertive and egoistic, and feminine leadership as receptive, vulnerable, and caring.
It was not until I came in contact with Lovisa Alséns Awakening Feminine Leadership path where I got to experience the deeper, and to me, more true, dimensions of the feminine, as well as how they can interact with the mature masculine, that I have been able to embrace the feminine. I now see there are more complex interrelationships at play than mainstream culture teaches. I have realized that, rather than the masculine and feminine merely being in polarity with each other, there are strong polarities within the masculine, and the feminine is highly cyclical.
Through my studies and practice on the Awakening Feminine Leadership path, observation of other women and men also pioneering feminine and masculine leadership and deep exploration of the cutting edge of decentralized leadership, I have synthesized a model that explains the depth within the masculine and the feminine as well as the creative dance between them.
[In the original there was a short summary with the first two of the above diagrams. See above.]
Although this creative cycle is true for all types of projects and organizations, it is especially relevant for Web3 and decentralized endeavors. In the Industrial Age you only needed one good idea to build a Creating Masculine production machine on top of, that could produce that product ever more efficiently. Creativity was initially needed to identify the market need, but once that was done, to succeed in penetrating the market, success came down to execution and grit. In this era it has worked quite well to spend most of our time working from the Creating Masculine, at least in traditional measurement of success not taking other factors such as social or environmental impact.
In the decentralized digital age, with its rapid change, peer-to-peer dynamics and information overload, the keys to success lie in your ability to constantly adapt and to attract attention, resources, users and co-creators. Without mastering the creative dance between the Creating Feminine, Holding Masculine, Creating Masculine and Holding Feminine – you will never be able to reach the depth of creativity and speed of innovation needed to adapt and keep up with the exponentially increasing rate of change within the world of Web3.
Furthermore, an awakened feminine leadership is needed to create the gravitational field that will pull in the right resources, employees and customers. If you ever walk into an office and get the feeling “wow there is a lot of life here!” – I would bet it is the presence of a strong Creating Feminine. And in a decentralized world where there are endless opportunities of what to spend your time and energy on, people will want to spend it in the initiatives and projects that vibrate with this energy. The initiatives and projects that feel real, and that touch people's inner worlds. This is what the Creating Feminine does. Without her, you are chanceless in building the decentralized platforms that will attract the most engaged and skilled people across the globe over the long-term.
She cannot do it alone. She needs to be backed by the Holding Masculine. Especially in current times when the feminine is so forcefully shut out of the business world – women really need men to back us. To step in and create the space we need for the energy of the Creating Feminine to work her magic through us, enabling us to access our inner power and embody the leadership of the Holding Feminine. This lifeforce accessed through the Creating Feminine is precisely the fuel that powers women regeneratively, corresponding to how testosterone does for men. We need men to forcefully carve out and hold up the pockets of air in the crazy world of Web3 where we women can breathe and start to remember who we really are. And as we do, we need a Holding Masculine that can transform the life force coming through us into actionable direction, take charge in the midst of all the chaos and with integrity and in collaboration with the fierce Holding Feminine send the Creating Masculine into purposeful execution.
But the feminine isn’t just central when it comes to having success in Web3. Zooming out beyond the benefits of single individuals or initiatives, the future of humans on this planet will be enormously affected by what the shift from Web2 to Web3 entails; whether we learn from past mistakes or not and in doing so are able to create a regenerative world through a Web3 where both the masculine and feminine can thrive.
In Web 2.0, the masculine has to a great extent extracted and used the feminine. Feminine qualities have been key to thriving on social platforms, and many women have built success by skillfully surfing the social media waves. Their success however, has from a larger perspective ultimately served predominantly male-owned platforms. The feminine’s place has been to suckle projects such Facebook and the like in impressive global expansions. Zooming out beyond human dynamics and seeing the feminine as mother earth, this extractive relationship becomes even more clear.
Not only does this create a dynamic between the masculine and the feminine that is deeply damaging and fans the flame of the culture war between men and women, but moreover, without the feminine we will never be able to actually build regenerative systems. To explain this claim let's look at a concrete example from the business world.
One company I worked with some years ago had a grand vision of enabling a regenerative world through creating customer powered commerce. The idea was to create a platform where all customers globally share their experiences, data and feedback whenever they buy a product. Aggregated, this data would then put collectively intelligent pressure on producers to produce products in line with customers needs and values. Flipping the market from producers pushing their products onto customers through marketing to consumers pulling out the products they want from producers in line with consumers’ values.
This is a truly well-intended vision, but after working close to it I realized that it was never going to work to create a regenerative world through a centralized platform. In a centralized system, there will always be a centrally designed value system underlying the algorithms and technology that determine key factors. In this case for example; what customer feedback was given more weight.
Engagement wise, the steering of activity by centrally designing values ultimately has the effect of making lifeforce suffocate and activity on the platform die out. Impact wise, regardless of how amazing and thought through values you design with, there will always be instances where there is some aspect of the complexity of reality that hasn’t been taken into account, which however minor discrepancy, over time will lead to imbalances that on an aggregated global level will cause severe damage.
In addition, there has never in history been an entity run by a leader, granted the enormous power it would mean owning and running such a platform, whose ego eventually hasn’t gotten in the way – no matter how enlightened and well intended they were. Small groups of humans are simply not designed for the task.
In other words, there will never be a centralized system that can design a guiding value system that meets the complexity of nature. It is the ultimate surrender into realizing that we are not in control (and ultimately that we will die). Man should not try to play God, and we have to come to terms with the fact that the world is messy and not in our control.
One human should and cannot be God, but a globally connected, all-seeing and decentralized Internet is probably the closest we can come to a God metaphor today. And it is the web3 associated technology that can enable this God-in-the-future to be life-serving, by allowing for decentralized adaptation to what momentarily supports the flourishing of nature and human activity.
However, technology that enables decentralized ownership is still only the prerequisite, not the full solution. Even though this technology affords exponentially better solutions than centralized platforms, smart contracts on the blockchain will not automatically serve life. Or at least not yet – and when AI can do such discernment, a plausible outcome is that they decide that humans are not needed any longer!
But until then, for humanity, it is the leadership behind the blockchain powered initiatives that decides what is possible to achieve through technology. And this is where we traditionally rely on organizational values and purpose for guidance. However, as illustrated by the example in the previous section, our point is that no purpose statement or values created only from the masculine mind will be able to stay relevant and hold the complexity needed to navigate today’s and the future’s business landscape, no matter how well thought through or well intended.
The only purpose that can hold sufficient complexity is the intention to continuously be in service of life, or in other words to act in service of the Creating Feminine. This is a deeply embodied leadership practice, far from using a written purpose statement as an endeavor’s main guidance. The Creating Feminine is the void from which new life emerges, she is the apparently random movements that underlie evolution. She is what grants us access to that which we do not already know. If we do not build in service of her, we will only create more of that which we already have. It is precisely this shift; from extraction of the feminine to service of her, that humanity desperately needs to keep thriving on this planet.
This journey of a man daring to let go of control and over-identification with his ego in order to face the void that is the Creating Feminine, realizing his powernessless to her and from there beginning to act in service is the, literally dead-scary, and honorable journey of becoming an adult as a man. And for women, surrendering into the power that wants to come through you and to trust and let your true self be seen there by the masculine is the equally intimidating corresponding journey into womanhood.
There are very many young men in Web3 who, consciously or unconsciously, are lost without guidance from their tribe. We urgently need more women living an awakened feminine leadership and we need more men honorably stepping into a mature Holding Masculine. If you make contact with the global field, you can probably sense the deep void we are in at the moment – a paradigm shift, a crisis, a deep opportunity… you may name it whatever you like. From this place, the architecture of the new Internet is rapidly being built, and how that turns out will affect humanity at its deepest, by being a central infrastructure to our new societies. We are still just in the first inning of development, which means that most shaping of the new is still to take place. The coming years will set the architecture and culture of Web3.
We are in the midst of creating our future. Let us together make it vibrant, brave, efficient and loving. Let us surrender to the fact that men and women might never truly understand each other, and that we can love, empower and support one another to be the best version of ourselves. As women, let us be free, wild, powerful, alive and let us remember who we truly are – let us reclaim the assertion of the lifeforce of women. As men and as women, let us grow up and let us show up. Let us support the blockchain pioneers in the Creating Masculine with guidance from the Feminine and Holding Masculine so that we can actually build something to be proud of for generations to come.
Let us build a Web3 in service of Life.
This text has been written together with the amazing Åsa Jonsson with input from Fati Hakim, Faviana Vangelius Von Heijne, Tom Nixon and Lovisa Alsén. The text was written as a part of Fati, Åsa, Fanny and Faviana’s Initiative to bring in more Women into Web3.
In this article we will look at how the approach Working with Source provides key tools and important understandings when it comes to the creative collaboration between the Holding Masculine and the Creating Feminine.
[The original continued: “In order to understand what this means and why it is important, let's start with a recap of what we have covered so far. This recap will very briefly run through deep and complex concepts, so for the rest of this article to make deeper sense, I recommend that you read the full articles.” followed by the diagrams of the polarities map and creative flow of the feminine and masculine. See above.]
In the first part I also shared my observations on how most organizations are too much in the Creating Masculine: moving too fast, getting too focused on money, lacking a meaningful purpose, not taking care of our people and planet, and making priorities too short term. Many agree that more of the feminine is needed, however, most often, the only feminine dimension we know how to or dare to bring in is the Holding Feminine. Yet when the Holding Feminine is not sourcing her power, or “filled up”, from the Creating Feminine, who in turn is not supported by the Holding Masculine, what we are left with is a disempowered Holding Feminine. This energy manifests as a collapsed mothering figure that is just trying to subdue the toxic Creating Masculine. The result of these two dimensions playing out in their shadows lies at the root of many common struggles in organizations today.
In contrast, when the Creating Feminine is embodying the creative life force, the Holding Masculine can sense and then translate this lifeforce into a clear, meaningful direction and actionable vision that is truly serving what wants to be born, at a deeper creative level than simply what will create the most short-term profit, or with a thin sense of purpose such as making something more efficient, or a miopic focus on customer demands. When the Creating Masculine in turn is guided by this deeper vision and purpose, he is free to fully unleash all of his creative manifesting building power into the endeavor, without him becoming toxic, but rather being truly in service of something larger than himself. When the Holding Feminine is filled up with the Creating Feminine’s life force, she keeps the team connected and guides and guards the lifecycle of the project like a panther, who has the respect of the Creating Masculine simply through her pure powerful presence.
The conclusion is that what is missing in most organizations is the fuel and creative power of the Creating Feminine, and the direction of the Holding Masculine. In this second part I shared why the Creating Feminine, supported by the Holding Masculine is especially important to thrive in the emerging decentralized network economy. In short, as we move from the Industrial Age business logic based on pushing out your products, into a network age pull-based business landscape where those who are able to attract resources, data, users and collaborators as well as navigate in the information overload, are successful, we need the gravitational power and creative inspiration of the Creating Feminine and the Holding Masculine’s ability to create direction in complexity. Also, if the emerging blockchain-powered, decentralized world is not created through the Holding Masculine guiding initiatives to create in service of the Creating Feminine who has access to a deeper knowing of what will create most life, we will not be able to create a regenerative society, and the same unintended consequences of the old system will be recreated.
Lastly, in this previous article, my teacher, Lovisa Alsén, and I lay out a deeper understanding of the Creating Feminine: a lifeforce beyond words, found in embodied pleasure, power and presence. Which brings us to the focus of this article – to deepen your understanding of the other often missing piece, the Holding Masculine. The focus will be on how to successfully bring this dimension into your initiative and how the Holding Masculine and Creating Feminine work together.
The field of work I have found that best explains the Holding Masculine and his relationship with the Creating Feminine is my colleague Tom Nixon’s book Work with Source, which is based on Peter Koenig’s Source Principles and Moneywork. I will start with briefly introducing the concept of Source. As with the recap of previous articles, this introduction will be using very broad strokes, so if you are completely new to Peter’s work, I recommend you to also look into deeper content such as Tom’s book, the articles on his website or podcasts like this one.
When looking at a group of people working together towards a common vision, we usually put the organization in focus; we think of our work as developing the organization and realizing the organization's purpose or vision. Working with Source offers a different lens, where instead of thinking about organizations, we focus on the creative process of realizing an idea in the world. Yes, we can find better ways of organizing, but that is secondary and in support of the creative initiative to make something happen in the world.
Peter found in his research that for every creative process to realize an idea, from companies, to nonprofits and any other human endeavor you can imagine, there is one single individual who we can think of as the overall author or artist of that process. Peter called this the “role of source” (or just source, for short). The role of source comes into being when someone takes the first vulnerable step, a risk, to begin realizing an idea in the world. When someone takes an idea from the realm of possibility and turns it into an initiative in the real world, this person will have a natural, creative form of authority over the creative process that unfolds. This authority is creative rather than power-over, and entails that the person will have a natural sense of the edge of the initiative: what is in and what is out. Also this person alone will be the one who can ultimately sense the next step for the initiative as a whole, not on a micromanaging level, but when looking at the big picture. Guarding the edge and sensing the next step with the source’s natural authority also means that person has a natural responsibility over what transpires. Neither the creative authority nor the responsibility that comes with it are things that we can give to someone by appointing them or through collective voting – rather, they emerge naturally.
When someone steps into the role of source with their creative passion, this will start to create an attraction pulling in resources and people who want to be part of realizing the vision. Peter calls this gravitational field around the source the “creative field”. The creative field is a place we can step into, and is a very useful metaphor when collaborating; we can start asking ourselves have I stepped into your field, or are you stepping into mine?
When stepping into someone's field, people can step in as a helper, meaning simply receiving jobs to do that take the initiative forward. Other times, someone feels called to take responsibility for an entire sub-part of the initiative. This person then becomes a specific source, and that person will have the same role and natural authority and responsibility to guard the edge and sense the next step for that part of the initiative. In turn, someone else can step in as a specific source to that person's specific initiative, and this can create a pattern of nested fields many layers deep. When you look at the chain of who is helping who with what throughout the initiative you can identify a pattern of nested circles showing how the global source’s bigger vision breaks down into specific initiatives with specific sources. This pattern of nested circles is the natural creative hierarchy of the initiative, also called the source hierarchy.
Even though there is always only one source for the overall, “global” initiative, there can be transitions of the role. When the initiative is done, or the Source does not have energy for the initiative any longer, the initiative can be closed. In the business world this is often seen as a failure, but from a source perspective this is just simply a natural part of the life cycle of all living things. If the source feels that it is time for them to leave, but that the initiative is not done, and there is someone who naturally steps up to take over the role of source, there can also be a succession of source in an initiative. Like the initial emergence of the source, this succession cannot be collectively or rationally “decided”, it will only happen as the outgoing source and their successor naturally connect and feel something energetic passing from one to the other.
This shift of perspective from organizational thinking with entities that we can rationally design and develop, to the lens of a creative process that emerges as we are called into it – is much more aligned with my research on the Feminine and Masculine. Identifying the role of source highlights the important roles of and the collaboration between the Creating Feminine and Holding Masculine in any creative endeavor. Together they create the natural authority energizing and guiding the entire creative process. The Creating Feminine gives us access to the creative lifeforce, the energy, inspiration and substance of the natural authority. The Holding Masculine senses and listens in to this and from there clarifies what seems to want to come to life into actionable direction. The stronger the presence of both, the stronger the clarity, inspiration and attraction of any creative field’s natural authority. This presence lays the foundation for building thriving initiatives in the emerging decentralized paradigm.
For the complete process of taking something from the realm of ideas into a concrete initiative in the world all four dimensions are needed: embodying the inspiration of the Creating Feminine; sensing the next steps and guarding the edges with the Holding Masculine; taking action from the Creating Masculine, holding the field together and knowing when it is done through the Holding Feminine. Thus, the process of sourcing something from idea to reality is fractal; each individual needs all four dimensions within themselves to be able to source something and individuals have their core archetype in one of the four and may have a much smaller embodiment of the others. So a source can have their core creative archetype in any of the four dimensions, then surround themselves with others who complement their core dimension. In other words, it doesn't matter which of the four dimensions come most naturally to you, you can source from all four, and it is your responsibility to make sure that all four are present, in their power and being used well within your field.
With that said, to source large initiatives in a healthy, regenerative way, it is probably useful for the global source to work on embodying the Creating Feminine or Holding Masculine well. To be able to create direction and source the inspiration of a very large creative field calling in many sub-initiatives and sub-sources, it will probably be useful to be able to embody either one or both of the deep connection with the creative field of the Creating Feminine and/or the clear connection with the initiatives direction of the Holding Masculine. Regardless of which dimension is your core archetype, as the Source it is ultimately your responsibility to make sure that there is sufficient creative capacity within your initiative.
Many initiatives today lack sufficient presence of the Holding Masculine, and one way this shows up is the lack of a clear and alive source hierarchy. As previously described, the source hierarchy is the pattern of nested circles showing how the global source’s bigger vision breaks down into specific initiatives with specific sources. As the source hierarchy is simply like a map of who took initiative for what, and who is helping who – it is always there, regardless if it is acknowledged or not. However, if there is not sufficient presence of Creating Feminine fueling inspiration and Holding Masculine taking that inspiration and turning into actionable direction – this natural and creative authority behind the hierarchy will not be sufficiently felt and clear. In other words the sources and specific sources will not be able to sense what is theirs to do and clarify it for themselves and others. And if people do not feel motivated and/or unclear, it is naturally challenging to realize a vision together.
When leaders who have their core archetype in and should be embodying the Holding Masculine are in a collapsed state, not standing in integrity and in their power, this shows up as a collective inability to make decisions, take initiative and provide direction. Leaders who have their core archetype in and who would embody the Creating Feminine will not feel held and sufficiently backed to be able to surrender into accessing their creative fuel. In general, people within the field will not know what is in and what is out and the creative efforts become scattered in different incoherent directions. Even if these initiatives can feel “cozy” or “free” they are seldom good at efficiently realizing a vision, and usually quite frustrating to work within over the long run.
In other initiatives leaders who should be embodying the Holding Masculine are in a detached, controlling and over-executing state. This means that they are not creating space for, listening to and daring themselves to receive inspiration from the Creating Feminine. This shows up as initiatives that are overly driven by ego and full of command and control; stifling autonomy, creativity, motivation and collective intelligence. Leaders who would embody the Creating Feminine cannot be forced into providing creative fuel and inspiration and instead become disconnected, in turn disconnecting also the Holding Feminine. Even if these kinds of initiatives can be effective at getting things done, without the Feminine present, what is created will not be in service of people and the planet. Also, in the long run, this push-based centralized way of running an initiative will struggle to thrive in the pull-based and decentralized network age.
Both cases lack a clear and alive natural source hierarchy. In the first case there is insufficient clarity, and in the second case there is insufficient creative energy for a natural hierarchy to be felt and clear enough to guide the initiative. The Creating Feminine will in neither cases feel willing nor safe to surrender into embodying the life force, and without the Creating Feminine, the Holding Feminine will lack her source of power.
Fully stepping into the Holding Masculine is a vulnerable and demanding endeavor. The journey of daring to let go of control in order to face the void that is the Creating Feminine, realizing one’s powerlessness to her and from there beginning to act in service is the, literally dead-scary, and honorable journey of fully stepping into the Holding Masculine archetype. Additionally, the inspiration and longing of the fluid and sometimes chaotic Creating Feminine can be difficult to decipher. This entails that acting in service of her often means to take initiative based on your best guess, listen in if your actions seem to align to her wish, and if not, try again with something else. Leading from the Holding Masculine requires a lot of courage, integrity and humility, which is why we feel so much admiration for the leaders who successfully are able to artfully stand in this archetype.
Likewise, for the Creating Feminine archetype; surrendering into the power that wants to come through you and to trust and let your true self be seen by the Holding Masculine is the equally intimidating corresponding journey into fully embodying the Creating Feminine. Both have to face the risk of their true self being rejected by the other, and it is far easier to detach or collapse. Their strong interdependence as well as the vast amount of vulnerability and courage required for the Holding Masculine and Creating Feminine to trust, show themselves to each other and dance together – is the reason behind why this fruitful collaboration is rare. And also why it is so potent. Thankfully, as the Holding Masculine can hold up the container that the Creating Feminine can surrender more easily within, and the Creating Feminine calls in the Holding Masculine the more she embodies the lifeforce. So, even if it does require great courage and surrender from them both, they can both be the ones who invite the dance.
When there is a healthy strong presence of the Holding Masculine, that supports a strong presence of the Creating Feminine, a vibrant source hierarchy based on natural authority will become present and felt. This is the kind of creative hierarchy that enables decentralized leadership that is generative and in service of what wants to come alive and thus the larger whole.
Again, the source does not need to be the one having the Holding Masculine as their core archetype, but they are the one responsible for there being enough presence of the Holding Masculine, as well as the other three dimensions, in their field. This responsibility is summarized well in the Source Compass presented in Tom’s book. The Source Compass shows the main tensions and polarities within an initiative that a Source is responsible for ensuring a creative dance between.
The Source is responsible to ensure that there is sufficient leadership daring to; standing in the not knowing, give enough space for and wait for inspiration from the Creating Feminine, being clear and giving direction to the Creating Masculine when the inspiration is clear (or to act in service of trying to get clear when that is right), holding the field together through the Holding Feminine and guarding the creative field around what is in and what is out through the Holding Masculine, as well as allowing sub-sources to step in with their creative authority and let them autonomously create what they are called to do, as long as it does not threaten the integrity of the creative field.
Now that we have sufficient understanding of the creative flow and collaboration between four dimensions of the Masculine and Feminine, we will look into how everything we have covered so far concretely and practically can be brought into realizing a vision through running an initiative.
There are of course unlimited possibilities when it comes to developing an initiative and the way you work within it, and my intention is not to provide the silver-bullet collection of methods and tools. In general, and especially with the ever increasing rate of change of today’s business world, I do not believe that there are generic recipes when it comes to how to run a business. Rather I believe in each source and initiative finding their unique way of navigating through the four dimensions and creative process, and continuously adapting your way of work as your inner and outer circumstances change. Naturally, it is wise to learn from others and to use the wisdom of best practice, but ultimately what combination of strategies, structures, processses and tools that works best will be different for each source and each initiative. Fundamentally however, there are some key high-level areas for ensuring a strong foundation. These areas are; having a global source in their creative power, clarifying the source hierarchy and ensuring a sufficient presence of the Creating Feminine and Holding Masculine through supporting potential role models.
One of the reasons that it can feel challenging to view an initiative through the lens of Source, is the realization that if the source principles are true, most shadows and challenges in an initiative can be traced back to, and are therefore the responsibility of, the Source. Sometimes painful to acknowledge and admit, but very rewarding when it comes to development as this also means that a lot of organizational tensions can be addressed by the global source acknowledging their role and developing their ability to Source.
Embodying the role of source well is a complex topic that, in its depth, is out of scope for this article. We have, very broadly, gone through the Source Compass, that summarizes key responsibilities in the role of Source. However there is one important aspect of the compass we have not yet touched upon; the center. The center of the compass speaks to the inner journey of being a source, centered on having an integrated identity. Identity reclamation work is the other core pillar of Peter Koenig’s work, and you can read more about it in the last part of Tom’s book. But in brief, having an integrated identity means having the ability and willingness to step into the wide range of characters required to source well. If the Source has a fear of, or over-attachment to, any of the four Masculine and Feminine dimensions within themselves, this is going to show up in how who and who are called in as sub-sources. Ultimately, leading to either a suppression of or overemphasis on different dimensions throughout the initiative resulting in an impeded creative process.
The work around clarifying the source hierarchy naturally also starts with the global source. If the global source is not clear on their vision, it will be difficult to clarify how this vision breaks down in the specific initiatives. As we have covered, getting clear involves both creating the space to be able to hear and feel the deeper calling and inspiration as well as being able to translate this inspiration into clear direction that others can act on. Tools like Charles Davie’s Very Clear Ideas, that you also can read more about in Tom’s book, is a great way to do the latter. In short, the Very Clear Idea of your vision should be specific and simply answer the question “what are you doing?” on the appropriate time scale. When the global “what” is clear, each specific source can clarify what they are doing to realize part of the global “what”. This way, the source hierarchy is a stack of nested “whats” that all build up to a global vision of what everyone is working towards together.
This stack of nested “whats” and who is sourcing and helping each can be visualized in a map of nested circles, where each circle represents a specific initiative within the outer circle of the global initiative. For a deeper explanation of field mapping and how to do it, I recommend Tom’s mapping masterclass video series.
Example of a field map
Having the source hierarchy visualized in a map has many important benefits; it keeps the responsibilities clear as initiatives grow and shows where there are gaps, accountability increases as transparency increases, it speeds up onboarding of new people and lastly it helps to get an overview of and to understand the field; it is usually not smart to start trying to develop something without understanding what is already there. An important perspective to remember when mapping a field is that it is not about designing your initiative, it is simply about mapping and making visual the source hierarchy that is naturally already there.
To creatively thrive, leaders embodying all four Feminine and Masculine dimensions are needed. However, as the Holding Masculine and Creating Feminine are both very important for the emergence of a thriving creative hierarchy and the ones most commonly lacking it can be very generative to specifically identify and support the people within your initiative that you believe have the most potential to embody either of the two.
I have witnessed how initiatives have excelled purely by having more access to the Holding Masculine and Creating Feminine (complementing the often already existing Holding Feminine and Creating Masculine) through existing leaders stepping up or new leaders stepping in. With them present, people’s ability to create and self-organize around challenges as they arise immensely increases, and you can spend less time on implementing supporting structures and more time on realizing the vision. Without them present, you can have the best strategies, tools and practices in the world for efficient collaboration and creation, and you still are likely to end up with tensions and power struggles.
I will not dive into how to best develop the Holding Masculine and awaken the Creating Feminine as it is a too deep scope for this article. But what I can say is that, in line with seeing each individual as the author of their own creative process, when it comes to leadership development, I believe in the general approach of allowing individuals to be in charge of their own development and call in the support they need. Furthermore, rather than everyone striving to become the same type of leaders, I believe that the most efficient path of development is to identify and grow in the archetype that comes most naturally to you, given good conditions.
Up until now, for simplicity's sake, I have only talked about archetypes that have their strength clearly in one of the four dimensions. Of course there are individuals who thrive in between dimensions who play equally important roles, such as being bridge builders between the dimensions. These bridge builders can be crucial for a fruitful collaboration between the Feminine and Masculine, so in addition to identifying the Holding Masculine and Creating Feminine role models, identifying and supporting the individuals who can role model the more fluid leadership archetypes is a good idea.
Though fundamental, being a better source, getting the source hierarchy clear and supporting role models – do not necessarily speak to the operations of running the day to day business. It is often easier to hold the four dimensions when stepping out of the operations and looking at an initiative from above. So now, let's look into how you can, in your day-to-day work, generatively unleash and utilize the four dimensions to realize a vision.
While leading a team together and through years of experimentation, a colleague of mine and I, Viktor Ansund, developed a method for running an initiative and developing your team that does precisely this.
For three years we led a team at an ecommerce group with 6.5M visitors/month spread over 6 stores, all with presence in 24 countries. As CMO and CTO, we and the specific sources in our team were responsible for all customer facing initiatives apart from customer support, including the front end development of the store sites and all content for the sites, social media and newsletters.
The diversity of tasks the team was responsible for was mirrored in the diversity of the skills and personalities of the team members. This diversity of both tasks and team imposed a high risk for collaboration difficulties, communication challenges and lack of uniting direction. However, by implementing the most value adding bare-minimum project management and team development processes and continuously improving them, we were able to instead harness the creative potential that comes with diversity and form a highly successful team. After three years of iteration, we realized that we had developed a quite unique and highly effective self-learning method for continuous improvement within our team. When the company was restructured and one of our team members, equally successfully, implemented the same method in her own newly formed team, our sense that we had cracked something universal was strengthened.
I could actually explain the method that we used in one sentence. Viktor named the method Fractal Development and essentially the method is to daily, weekly, bi-monthly and yearly ask the two questions:
By asking these questions over different time and initiative scopes and continuously making improvements in your way of working, given time, your team will thrive – regardless of where your starting point is. Rather than implementing verbose agile methods that are not adopted to your specific context and needs, develop a tailored way of working by starting simple and only implementing the supporting structures that have passed the experiment of actually solving real problems and needs.
Most experienced team leads and product owners have come to similar conclusions; it is not over complicated processes that work, it is the super simple structures that allow continuous improvement, becoming more and more adapted to you and your team's specific needs and circumstances, as those needs and circumstances change.
So, for some, the method of these two questions might sound quite trivial and/or not necessarily that different from other agile approaches. However, it was not only the strict philosophy of keeping things simple with only value-creating bare-minimum structure built from continuous learning that made this team experience unique. As my understanding of the feminine as masculine has deepend, I have realized that what made our team development so effective, making our experience stand out from other experiences with agile development or other continuous improvement methods, is that we asked the questions from all four of the feminine and masculine dimensions.
In our case, the women on the team were all practicing Awakening Feminine Leadership and could embody both of the Feminine dimensions in a way I haven't experienced before in the business world. And Viktor had for some time dived deep into mens work, bringing in both the polarities of the Masculine into the team. This was before I had synthesized the polarities map and we did not consciously set out to bring in the Feminine or Masculine in any particular way, Rather, by embodying the Masculine and Feminine in our leadership we could in hindsight see that generative structures and processes around the team that embodied wisdom and power of all four dimensions had naturally emerged.
So, what do I mean then when I say that the questions need to be asked from all four dimensions? Let me walk you through them.
The “What did we do well last period” question needs to be asked deeply embodying the wisdom of the result-focused “did we do what we said we would” Creating Masculine as well as the Holding Feminines ability to see beyond the shallow layers and into the deeper mycelium of the vision and the team dynamics and prosperity.
Without the Creating Masculine present you end up with process lacking concrete results and losing accountability and responsibility. Which is devastating for masculine motivation, as the masculine is here to serve, provide and create results. Frankly, there is little point with most businesses if you lack the Creating Masculine. The deeper purpose of, not all, but many businesses is to provide society with resources in ever more efficient and regenerative ways.
But, if you merely focus on results when reflecting on a period of work, without the polarity of the Holding Feminine present, both the team and the deeper purpose will suffer in the long run. Without the Holding Feminine you will end up with endless doing without any space for reflection, learning, course-correction and celebration. If you don’t give continual space for healing, learning and coming together as a team, their ability to collaborate will stagnate. Viktor and I talked about this as creating a fruitful polarity between project and people.
The “What will we do (better) this period” question needs to be asked from a grounded present Holding Masculine, who is honoring the bigger vision and answering in service of life, requiring the alive presence of the Creating Feminine. The Creating Feminine embodies the creative fuel and gives us access to the deeper mission behind all we do. Without her, the group and initiative will soon start to feel lifeless, de-energized and meaningless and it will be more and more difficult for the Holding Masculine to sense the right directions and next steps. And without the grounded Holding Masculine we lose connection with what we are doing feeds into the bigger vision and we get lost in directionless doing of the Creating Masculine. Possibly in the short term giving a sense of high speed and agility, but in the long run creating a scattered initiative with extrinsically or unmotivated people running in different directions.
Taking in the polarities map, a slightly more detailed summary of Fractal development is to, every day, week, bi-month and year, repeat the same reflections and actions:
What this looked like concretely for us, after three years of iteration was the following.
We would start each day with an all-hands stand up that would take around 15 minutes. In addition to the check in, the women on the team would often meet earlier in the morning and do different practices from Awakening Feminine Leadership like embodied meditations, dancing and breathing exercises. During the stand up we would start with 30 seconds of silence and then one round of checking in, where everyone would take a moment to land into their bodies and briefly share what was present for them.
We would then do a second round where everyone would share one sentence on what they accomplished the day before and one sentence on the most important thing they were planning to do today.
Lastly we would rate how well we as a team lived up to the sprint focus from yesterday, by a simple show of hands rating the focus from 1 finger meaning poorly and five meaning very well. If relevant, one or two people would share what they think we could do today to better live the team focus.
We began each week by doing a 30 min retro of the previous week. We would start with a project retro looking at what we had committed to in the past week’s planning and then demo the achievements and deliverables of the past week. Based on this we would do a team retro starting with one round of everyone sharing one thing they appreciated about themselves, someone or the team followed by a round of everyone sharing one thing they wish themselves, someone else or the team would do differently in the future. Lastly we would decide on a focus that would support the team in the coming week. This then became the new team focus that we would assess every daily stand up.
After the week retro we would shift focus into a 30 minute planning session of the coming week. We would start the planning session with an embodying and grounding sharing of “what is alive in me and important for me this week”. After this we would plan the coming week by scoping an prioritizing tasks for the week . When choosing what tasks to do we would take into consideration the motivation of the team as well as where we were at in the bi-monthly overall plan for the initiatives that members of our team were sourcing.
I do not share this to tell you exactly how to run to your daily stand ups or weekly planning meetings. One of the core success factors in the design of Fractal Development is that the method doesn’t include any processes or tools for things like task planning or team development. Rather, it only includes a simple structure of continuously improving your way of working, allowing you to iteratively find better and better ways of running your unique team and realizing your specific initiatives.
The key is to continuously run experiments of adding tools and processes that meet needs as they arrive as well as removing tools and processes that are excessive or don’t seem to work. And again, keeping all four of the dimensions in mind when diagnosing a problem and designing its solution. This enables you to find your and your team’s unique way of integrating and utilizing the four feminine and masculine dimensions in your work. The importance is not exactly how you do it, or in what order, but that you include all 4 on a continuous learning journey.
When it comes to running experiments, there is wisdom in allowing some time to try out new structures and processes before evaluating them. In our team we, after a while, landed in the rhythm of designing and evaluating these experiments on a bi-monthly rhythm.
Bimonthly we would gather the team for a half day session consisting of a retrospective of the past two months and planning of the coming two. The bi-monthly session followed the same flow of the weekly session, only applied to a longer time and larger project scope.
We would start with a bimonthly retro where we would look at what we had committed to achieving the past two months and demo the projects and initiatives we had succeeded in completing. We would then have a deeper process of sharing appreciation and constructive feedback in the team, look at the aggregate appreciations and constructive feedback we had gathered the past two months at each week planning, and discuss team intentions for the coming two months.
We would then go into planning the coming two months. We would start with each team member connecting to their deeper calling and motivation in what they are sourcing. Then we would look at the high-level yearly road map for our specific initiatives, and based on both, create a high-level plan for what projects to take on in the coming two months.
Lastly, we would update our code of conduct; a document that explained how we as a team had committed to working together. To update the code of conduct meant designing experiments on what we wanted to change in the way we worked the coming two months, as well as evaluate the experiments we had run the previous two months.
We would evaluate the last two months' experiments by looking at if they had met the need they were designed to or not, if yes we kept the new way of working, if not we scrapped it.
When designing new experiments we would start by first identifying the most pressing needs in the team. We would identify these needs by taking in the overall feeling, learnings and results of the past two months as well as the nature of the projects that we were facing the coming two months, all of which we had gathered during the whole bi-monthly retro and planning. With inspiration from our common experience of team and project management tools, we would choose the process, structure or tool to try the coming two months as an experiment to see if they would solve the identified most pressing needs. To avoid redundant structure we never implemented anything to solve future problems and of course, an experiment could also be to remove something.
When we had created a proposal that everyone could consent and commit to, we adjusted the code of conduct. The code of conduct this way, became a living document containing the project management tools and team development processes best fitting our current specific needs, that everyone had committed to following the coming two months. In other words, after three years of iteration our code of conduct consisted of describing the daily, weekly and bi-monthly structure that I have just walked you through in this text.
The last time period that we would gather the team around was yearly. Again the yearly session would follow the same flow as the weekly and bi-monthly, but looking at the whole year. We would start with looking at a project timeline showing all the completed projects of the year. We would then have a session of diving deeper into celebrating accomplishments and reflect on what we had learned as a team. After that we would take time for each individual to go deep into and embody his or her personal vision for what he or she is called to source the coming years, followed by reconnecting to the global initiatives wider vision and how that impacted our teams sub-initiatives. Based on this we would set a high-level roadmap with focus areas for the coming year. Last, but not least, we would end with a party celebrating the death of the old and birth of what was to come.
Putting all of this together this creates a fractal flow that looks something like this:
Most agile methods are not able to bring in the creative power of both the cyclical feminine and the linear masculine. Most of them have a linear way of viewing the creative process. They move between planning and executing, but miss out on the inspiration and integration of the Feminine, and both the team and project suffer in the long run. The leaders that do emphasize on the Feminine instead often put too little focus on the Masculine, resulting in poor progress and lost sense of project accomplishment.
Furthermore, most agile methods are not adopted for a specific team's needs and are not implemented with the team’s consent, which makes them clunky and demotivating. Also they seldom dock into and strengthen the natural source hierarchy, and therefore are deficient when it comes to holding the polarity of creating common direction while at the same time allowing for autonomy.
To summarize, the three main areas that make Fractal Development stand out is that it is a method that allows for intrinsically motivated continuous improvement, within a clear source hierarchy, using the wisdom and power of all four Feminine and Masculine dimensions.
The word Fractal refers to the fractal nature of the two same questions being asked and acted upon daily, weekly, bi-monthly and yearly encompassing ever larger initiative and time scopes. When developing your team and initiative in this way, it creates a way of working that is created by the people using it. This ensures that processes and structures implemented are specifically adopted for the team's unique needs and skills, and ensures both high motivation and commitment to actually use them.
Additionally Fractal Development allows for a culture of experimentation and incremental improvement, which when it comes to realizing a vision together, almost always is preferable. In the long run, the winners are not the ones who are the most skilled from the start, but those who are able to improve their way of working every day.
An illustrating example is looking at the tool “checking in” and some of the developers in our team. A few of them were highly skilled at coding, but were not used to self-reflection and sharing in a group setting. When we first implemented checking in we started with a simple “how are you”, and they would simply answer with a short “I’m good”. After a couple months of iterative feedback-loops they were sharing nuanced descriptions of their inner world, which helped them become present and able to more efficiently collaborate during the day. If we would have asked them to share a deep, embodied description of what was alive in them the first week working together, we would have probably just come to the conclusion that check-ins are not a good idea.
Fractal also refers to acknowledging how the global initiative fractals into ever smaller sub initiatives and sub sources. When planning what to do next, at each fractal, space is given to sense into the inspiration, motivation and clarity of each source. Also, when planning each fractal, the team takes in the vision and plan of the initiative one level up in the source hierarchy, to make sure that only the actions that are within the creative field are taken. When plans are made from both of these perspectives it is possible to ensure a direction that is both collectively coherent and fueled by autonomous motivation and wisdom.
Lastly, fractal also refers to the fractal nature of the Masculine and Feminine dimensions in each part and in the whole. As with a fractal pattern, each dimension can be found and is needed in each sub-part of the global initiative; in each individual and in each team, and some parts and some phases and parts will naturally utilize some of the dimensions more.
When developing your team and initiative, the idea is to, for each fractal, create a flow between the four dimensions that is as creative and generative as possible. This means holding the polarity between the inspiration of the Creating Feminine and the direction of the Holding Masculine in the beginning of the initiative or project cycle and the polarity of project execution of the Creating Masculine and team unification of the Holding Feminine during the end of the initiative or project cycle. In practice, it is not always important which dimension you focus on first, the importance is that the strength of each is brought in at each fractal level.
The listening of the Holding Masculine and the life-sourcing of the Creating Feminine are the most intangible; though there are methods that support us to tap into them, they are more about how you show up; the presence, energy, embodiment and level of connection and truth you speak and act from. They are more difficult to measure or design for, but you will notice when they are there or not.
The principles of Fractal Development applies for all groups coming together to work on an initiative and can be implemented regardless if the group does recurring work together as a team or not. During our time at the ecommerce group Viktor and I implemented a structure for meetings following the same flow through the four dimensions. And just like we did when working within our team, the meeting structure was adapted by experimenting with it in different groups. As more and more people loved it, it gradually spread across the company until pretty much all meetings were led in this manner – vastly decreasing the time spent in meetings across the company. My favorite culmination of this meeting structure spreading was when the CEO introduced a check in to the confused looking board. The simple flow that we implemented was the following:
Again, this is not rocket science or much different from most proven processes for running efficient meetings such as IDOARRT. Simply implementing a good process does help, but what takes it to the next level is when all four dimensions are present, embodied and in their power, throughout the different phases of the meeting.
We have been on quite a journey through deep waters. To summarize and bring it all together, I will share a broad stroke overview of the approach that is emerging as Tom Nixon and I work with supporting sources and their initiatives. This approach brings together the concepts that we have covered, summerzing how they can be applied in the process of realizing a big, creative vision.
As a starting point, we approach initiatives as an emerging creative process, rather than an organization that we can redesign. Following this, we never focus on supporting organizations, we support sources and their initiatives. Like for all employees, as someone supporting from outside of the initiative, there will also always be a person who is the one that brought you in to help out the larger field, and it is important to acknowledge the source principles also in this relationship.
Following the source principles, we start with supporting the source or specific source in being a good source. This includes supporting their inner development journey and identity integration, as well as becoming connected with and clear on the vision they are sourcing. We also introduce the principles of Fractal Development to bring in the power of experimentation and continuous learning, using all the wisdom of all four dimensions, when working with others in realizing their vision.
As the source becomes ever better at artfully sourcing, we look at their creative field to identify and offer support to the potential role models who want to become better at embodying the often lacking Holding Masculine, Creating Feminine and fluid leadership archetypes.
At this point, we also clarify the source hierarchy in the field through field mapping, giving an overview of the field, identifying specific sources as well as acknowledging the tensions in the field such as gaps in responsibility or areas where someone has unwillingly taken responsibility. These tensions give important information on where to go next.
When the tensions and closest specific sources in the hierarchy have been identified we, in turn, offer these specific sources support in sourcing their specific initiatives better. Again through inner development, becoming connected and clear with their specific vision and through helping them develop through experiments and utilizing all four dimensions in their day-to-day work through the principles of Fractal Development. Rather than imposing the same collective tools or structures on everyone, through using a method like Fractal Development, each specific source and specific initiative will find the tools and process fit for them.
When these specific sources in turn have done their work, we offer the same support approach to the specific sources helping them, in this way moving ever further into the source hierarchy.
As more sources step into their role, it becomes more and more fruitful to visualize the source hierarchy in a map that can be shared throughout the organization. With a shared map that is continuously updated the natural authority of the sources and thus the creative power of the initiative is further strengthened.
In the emerging interconnected, complex and fast changing business landscape, the mainstream management consulting approach to business development of gathering data and using it to design solutions for an initiative to implement, is becoming redundant in more and more contexts. Progressive and agile approaches that are better fit for these new circumstances are becoming ever more common, but unfortunately, most of these approaches also struggle to hold the key polarities that lay the foundation for thriving creativity.
The, sometimes provokingly, contrasting approaches presented in this article are attempts to navigate through and thrive in this new world, as it is emerging. If you also feel that the ideas presented here are inspiring and/or intriguing, I would love to hear from you and to explore more together. I warmly welcome you to join in on the journey towards a more creative, alive and purposeful business world.
This version was put together by Simon Grant, who added the title above, adapted the formatting, made some slight alterations to achieve more consistency, and corrected a very few typographical errors. He also added the highlight colours to help recognition of the four poles. It is private and will not be published or widely shared without the permission of the author.