The topic of leadership is being discussed online more than ever these days, or perhaps it’s just that I’m paying more attention now. Since we are undergoing rapid change in our social institutions, the need for real leadership is more urgent than ever before in my lifetime.

I’ve noticed more articles and books that refer to “Male Leadership” and “Female Leadership,” and every time I see those words—and often when I read the discussion—I have the thought, “stereotyping, stereotyping” in my mind. When will we as a society wake up, stop trying to put people in itty-bitty boxes, and let people tap into more of their true potential? Leadership is not male or female.

Now, there are masculine and feminine qualities or principles that can affect leadership style, but “masculine” does not equal “male” and “feminine” does not equal “female.” Herein lays the confusion.

As a society, we have historically equated the “feminine” only with women and the “masculine” only with men. This is incorrect. I believe the best way to bring this discussion to the table of the general public is to point out that from a brain point of view the left brain’s role in our functioning has more “masculine” characteristics and the right has more “feminine.”

When functioning at our highest levels of awareness, our hemispheres freely collaborate with awareness. As a tangible example, language has its linear structure, logic and process from the left side, and its contextual, metaphor and humor from the right. However, the left can repress the right to a degree, which may explain why, when we are too “in our heads” and acting more masculine, the language expression tends to be humorless, factual and logical. An example can be seen in science and many academic books.

Living too much on the side of the left brain could also explain why a person is more likely to ignore their intuition, have poor social intelligence and shaky empathy, and be spiritually disconnected from the whole of life. These traits are more right-brain (the heart) traits. When out of balance, repression of the right brain typically shows up as overt competition, rugged individualism, and greed as the survival response works overtime. Assertion also easily turns into aggression.

In other words, the needs of the physical, external world would have too much focus without the balance of “going inside” to relax, reflect, and re-energize – to just “be.” Instead, we become a society of “doing machines.”

In the process, we’ve forgotten who we really are. Without the right-brain, connecting with others is challenging, at best.

Getting back to leadership, there are men who are in balance, demonstrating both sides of the brain characteristics, and there are women who are not, and vice versa. Admittedly, I’ve seen most women out of balance leaning toward the side of the right; meaning they are not assertive enough. Likewise, I’ve noticed men have a tendency to be out of balance on the side of the left. Why? A part of the reason is that most people buy into stereotypical roles. It’s not that nature designs us in a black or white way. Even the argument that back during early civilization, men were hunters and women were gathers is not necessarily a pure biological argument.

Stereotyping and role-playing didn’t begin in the 21st century. I believe even back in the early formation of societies, there were men who would have been better gathers and women better hunters. In fact, one can find historical information to support this in some cultures. In the animal kingdom, the lioness is a better hunter than the male lion. It’s not about gender.

Personally, I started out in life more passive, relationship-oriented, and creative. Due to my environment, I became more masculine, and by the time I got through medical school back in the early 1980s, I was far more masculine than feminine. Only when I was serving my patients did I become more feminine, which is one reason they loved me so much. When around my male colleagues, I was so strong that rarely did a guy try to intimidate me. I’ve now learned how to balance much better, and can use whatever I need in the appropriate moment in alignment with my True Self. What’s the point?

The more self-aware you become that men and women have BOTH a left- and right-brain hemisphere and can draw on either side with attention, the more powerful you can be and the more likely to reach more of your true potential. You can call on traits as you need them and balance the ones that need balancing.

No, leadership is not male or female. A great leader knows herself or himself clearly enough to come from a place of authenticity with flexibility according to the present moment situation. Rigid thinking results in alienation, lack consciousness, lack of assertiveness, insecurity, incongruent behavior, and lack of clarity of vision. Fear-based self-limiting identity beliefs hold leaders back from rising to the occasion and courageously dealing with whatever needs to be dealt with, doing it in a way that inspires others.

21st-century leadership will require more self-reflection, as well as getting in touch with old, stereotypical thinking so that beliefs can be updated to create an environment that engages the minds and hearts of the people we serve. Are you up for the challenge? If not, you may want to reconsider your role as a leader. The last I checked, leaders are supposed to lead the way to change for the good of the whole, to get out of the box to innovate and inspire others, not to keep people lame, weak, or stuck in itty-bitty boxes.

Author's Bio: 

Valencia Ray, M.D. teaches business owners and corporate leaders how their amazing brain can actually hijack personal power -- not in the abstract, but in the context of integrating business and personal life. Dr. Ray, a board-certified eye surgeon and medical business owner for over 20 years before selling her practice, shares her own life changing process. By sharing her story, she helps others to expand their vision and learn that by living with purpose and confidence, it is possible to have a more integrated, healthier lifestyle – with less struggle, more inner peace and more abundance.

For more information and to contact her regarding dynamic, inspirational keynotes, trainings in collaborative leadership and team building, entrepreneurship and coaching programs, visit her website at