It seems fitting that on the 4 July as America celebrates the declaration of independence from British rule we acknowledge the contribution made by the proliferation of independent businesses. Power, ownership and control are the hallmarks of an institutionalised world and this is particularly evident within an industrialised economy.

Amidst a rapidly changing landscape buoyed largely by technological advances and the global gateway we now know as the internet, the playground for real transformational change both at a personal level and a business level is the micro economy. As the nature of work becomes more transient and itinerant larger numbers, by necessity or choice, are opting out of the mainstream and into the world of freelance, self-employment and enterprise.

The digital and knowledge economies give the people a voice. Social media and viral marketing channels allow us to communicate in real time across the globe. Whilst there remains a healthy cynicism about the influence of big brother we have access to a wider range of non-mainstream information channels.

The raison d’etre of independent business owners differs at its core to large public companies and corporate institutions. The strongest catalyst for Independent business owners going out on their own in pursuit of their dreams is not primarily for wealth creation but rather lifestyle choice. The most discernible difference between the economic drivers of big business and small business is not the pursuit of profit but rather the MAXIMISATION of profit.

Entrepreneurship, at its core, is the place where materiality and spirituality meet. A heartfelt mission or passion fuels the drive to do what you love, make a purposeful contribution and leave an enduring legacy. It’s essence is creative. It is an invitation to create value. Sure, an institutionalised world offers employment opportunities and many of these are built around compliance and regulatory activities.

The heart of the entrepreneurial world beats as a conscious, creative collective and in large measure this is due to those that took a risk to pursue their dreams – in much the same way as our forefathers before us. So, today on Independents Day we salute those brave entrepreneurs who dared to dream and dared to pursue their dreams. Long may you prosper.

by Dennis Roberts

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by Dennis Roberts

In “The Rise of the Feminine,” we explored how the masculine and feminine polarities, Yin Yang, play out in business and leadership. For hundreds of years business has been dominated by fiercely competitive, command and control, patriarchal models of leadership. Never before have we faced such complexity, rapid change or global challenges. The old patriarchal models of leadership no longer serve.

The Rise of the Feminine” has gathered widespread acceptance in personal and spiritual growth circles but has not been popularised in a business context – until now.

The Rise of the Feminine” has transformed the game of business. And not where you might think. Like a veritable tsunami you won’t see its waves breaking on the shoreline. It is an under-current, such is the way of the feminine. It is covert. Yet powerful beyond measure.

Whilst many look within the corridors of power in board rooms, executive teams of publicly listed companies, and political office, “The Rise of the Feminine” has transformed the micro business landscape right before our very eyes. The take-up rate of home based business, internet marketing, solo-preneurs and freelance work has been phenomenal. These micro enterprises do not rely upon the power and authority structures endemic in large corporations. This is where the economic landscape is being rewritten.

Economic theory was founded on the Law of Scarcity. It underpins everything we know and believe in economics and commerce. In short, competitive market forces of demand and supply determine the equilibrium price where the exchange of goods and services take place.  

It is inaccurate to say the old masculine patriarchal energy has been replaced by “The Rise of the Feminine” in micro business for it never existed in this space. This is how “The Rise of the Feminine” has changed, and is changing, forever the way we do business. The micro business landscape and the world wide web is a portal to a new way of BEING in business.

The Old Boys Club lives on in another guise

Critics of the ‘old boys club’ approach to doing business may well consider that since Adam was a boy we have gathered together in tribes to pursue common goals. I am not an advocate of the Old Boys Club. It is isolationist. There is a better, more inclusive way. Business and leadership are not the sole preserve of men and particularly the old masculine energy based on power and authority structures. Having said that I pose the question:

“Are women’s networks the modern
version of The Old Boys Club?”

The key to long term sustainable change is in the integration of both masculine and feminine energy - “The Rise of the Feminine” coupled with The Rebirth of the Masculine. What we need is not a revolution from patriarch to matriarch but an evolution to new ways of business and leadership. A new model of heart based leadership which integrates BOTH masculine and feminine. This is the essence of Yin Yang – the masculine contains the feminine energy, and the feminine contains the masculine energy. They exist in unity not duality.

The biggest challenge facing women’s groups is how they engage, interact with, and emancipate the old masculine patriarchal energy. There is a wonderful opportunity to lead business into the new age from the heart.

This new age leadership, integrating both feminine and masculine, will come from outside the traditional power and authority structures and most likely will arise covertly from a minority voice. This is leadership. This is true celebration of diversity. The feminine influence on leadership in business will evolve. It will arise from evolution not revolution. This is the way of the feminine. It is not a power play. It is covert, subtle and unassuming.

The decree of quotas may serve to increase the representation of women in positions of power and influence. It’s a nice ideal and an incremental step towards parity. As effective as they might be, quotas aren’t transformative. There is an old adage in selling, “Power buys from power.

“The Rise of the Feminine” is far more than the pursuit of parity. It is far more than an incremental approach. It is of far more benefit than filling 10%-20% of executive positions. The real transformation of leadership is not a power game. There is a fundamental distinction between authority and leadership – everyone can lead and they don’t need to be in positions of power and authority to do so. Moreover, many people in positions of authority don’t lead. Leadership is a verb not a noun.

Micro business is leading the change

I wrote earlier that larger corporations need an authority structure to function. Micro business does not. Because of their small size they provide a perfect opportunity for a more feminine model of leadership.

Talk with any home based business owner and learn how innovative, flexible, collaborative, street smart they are to survive, let alone thrive.

Most micro businesses have a different raison d’etre. They are created more for lifestyle reasons rather than wealth creation. You won’t find them raising private equity, floating on the stock exchange and trading share parcels. These wealth creation strategies of the capital markets shift the game of business.

Micro business has a different agenda. They are more nimble, agile, quicker. If you look at how they operate, why they operate and for whom they operate – it is obvious why there are parallels with the feminine.

by Dennis Roberts

by Dennis Roberts

The end of the financial year is fast approaching and for many business owners it marks the time of year for an annual performance review. The effectiveness of your review process will largely be a function of how well you framed your expectations at the outset. The performance review has two parts – backward and forward. So, if you didn’t frame your expectations well last year then not to worry, lesson learned, you can now set and manage your expectations of the coming period.

I know most forward plans project twelve months ahead. The more strategic your outlook, the further forward your planning horizon. I suggest amidst great uncertainty that you set and measure quarterly performance measures. Small business, short focus. Prepare a 90 Day Plan. You can get quite specific with short term accountability.

The main reason I suggest short timeframes is to shorten the decision cycle. Quick, decisive reviews and action are the order of the day. Few small businesses are afforded the luxury of carrying stock, working capital, non-performing staff or overheads of any description.

The Review

Conduct a performance review of both your business and your staff. Prior to meeting for the staff performance review here’s a couple of suggestions.

1.     Set the context in terms of time period and scope. For example, say upfront that it is going to be an annual performance review covering 1st July, 2010 to 30th June, 2011. It is a performance review of how well you achieved the duties, measures outlined in your employment agreements, contract or whatever you have documented. The first rule of performance reviews is NO SURPRISES. If you, or they, spend much of the review discussing or debating items of feedback that haven’t previously been aired then you are not giving enough informal/ formal feedback ongoing. If this rings true, learn from it, and change your ways.

2.     Invite your staff member to conduct a self-assessment PRIOR to meeting with you. The questions that can prepare are “What worked/ didn’t work?”, “What did I do well/ not so well?”, “What were my major wins?”, “What should I keep doing, stop doing or improve?”

3.     Let them talk. If they have prepared answers to the questions above then once they have shared their view then, and only then, can you ADD to the discussion. You may have a different view, and that is OK, but let them hold the floor for a bit.

4.     Setting expectations. If someone’s performance hasn’t come up to scratch then state what you expect of them. Provide lots of specific examples. Give generous, objective feedback. Listen a lot. If they have done well, then be lavish in your praise. Remain objective and be specific. The best way to be specific is to give examples.

Pay performance or reward results?

Performance drives results. Performance is the CAUSE, whereas results are the EFFECT. There are two things that drive performance – skills and behaviour. In business measures think in terms of the following – lead generation is the performance driver. Sales revenue is the result. Obviously you want to get results but if you want to influence your ability to get results you will need to stimulate the performance drivers at the causal level.

If someone gets results but you don’t know how then it will make it extremely difficult for you to clone their success or build your business. 

by Dennis Roberts


Why ask why? 


by Dennis Roberts

For quite some time in my client engagements I refrained from asking the WHY? questions. To me they seemed to trigger justification and judgement. For many us our basic emotional drive is to please others. In our pursuit of pleasing others, to win their favour, or our search to feel valued, accepted and even loved, we create a vacuous hole that we desperately seek to fill from the outside.

Often all it takes is a subtle inflection in your tone of voice to convert a sincere expression of interest into probing cross-examination. Why open yourself to justification and judgement?

These days I find wholesome value in asking the deeper question of WHY? Rather than being a Spanish Inquisition triggering justification and judgement I use it to explore the deeper pool of meaning which is the gateway to a purposeful life. WHY? questions lead to an exploration of values, raison d’etre, purpose and meaning.  

Whether it be an entrepreneur trying to convert a creative idea into steady cashflow, or a performing artist finding voice and an outlet for artistic self-expression, or a corporate employee searching for a job role to ignite their vocational passion. The WHY? question asked from a place of adventure, intrigue and wonderment engenders a very different response and, I hasten to add, a response that comes forth from the heart. The heart is the dominion of magic. Our search for purpose and meaning in our lives is answered by our connection to heart and spirit. The two realms being inextricably linked.

The more you FEEL your answer, or INTUIT your answer, the closer you are to source, your source. Often the path to discovering what you seek is triggered by posing a different, more compelling question – the exploration of WHY?

There has been much written about positive psychology, values based organisations and authentic leadership. In every instance the key to igniting the passion and creative juices of your staff and your enterprise start with this quest to explore the pool of deeper meaning and entrepreneurial spirit that rumbles within each of us.

It is a conversation just yearning to be had - if you dare.

by Dennis Roberts

by Dennis Roberts

“… spiritually the female will now have her turn to lead mankind into the New Light. And eventually, this female spiritual light will permeate the entire range of human experience from female leaders in business and religion to female leaders of state ... this female light will become so strong as to become obvious to all who live on this dear planet and will continue to grow for thousands of years.”

“The Serpent of Light” by Drunvalo Melchizedek

Is this uprising, women as a gender, or femininity as energy? If the former, then those women who have won positions of power by amplifying their masculine will continue the masculine archetypal game. If, on the other hand, the essence of this is the rise of the feminine energy then that has the potential to change how the game of business is played, and to change the very game itself. And that is what I am exploring.

The ancient Chinese viewed things in relationship with nature and the environment, everything studied formed part of a holistic perspective. No single element existed in isolation. There was perfect symmetry in the dualistic nature of night and day, water and fire, active and passive, masculine and feminine.

Taoist theory of yin and yang helped explain all things and their inter-relationships. All things had yin and yang properties. Yang is associated with outward movement, active, projection, brightness, excitement. Yin is associated with inward, rest, darkness, passive, nourishment.


How is business played under the masculine archetype of leadership?

Masculine (Yang) energy plays out in business as a bias for action, making things happen, setting goals, measuring results, hitting targets. Metaphors of war abound in both business and sport. Competition is fierce, targets are hit, takeovers are hostile, companies are taken over, market share is won/lost, customers are targeted, plans are executed, patches are carved up, products are launched, staff are boned, people are fired.

Sun Tzu’s classic, “The Art of War”, widely linked competitive theory with ancient Chinese military strategy. Some suggest such military, authoritarian styles of leadership have a time and a place, especially during times of crisis and war. Perhaps so.

The natural state of play is for masculine and feminine energies to co-exist in equilibrium. What Drunvalo was alluding to was the rising up of feminine energy to restore the equilibrium from hundreds of years of dominant masculine energy.

Leading business mind, Warren Bennis writes, “We are facing unprecedented times of growing complexity, globalisation and rapid change, the likes of which we have not seen before ... what is needed is not a map, but a compass for this is unchartered territory.”

Furthermore, Heifetz suggests that amid such flux and uncertainty one of the qualities needed in leadership is an ability to “live in the disequilibrium.” If masculine (Yang) energy is about DOing then feminine (Yin) energy is about BEing. Our leaders need to embrace more of this Yin energy, remaining present in the disequilibrium, and seeking out and listening intently to the diverse opinion in our ranks. The key is to resist trying to solve the problem and allow creative tension to bring resolution of its own accord. It may appear counter intuitive but as Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it” and most definitely we need different ways of operating to deal with these new challenges.

The Rise of the Feminine – what it means for business and leadership

If “The Art of War” was the masculine archetypal guide to strategy then “Blue Ocean Strategy” now illustrates how The Rise of the Feminine has permeated business schools. Rather than using metaphors of war, the discussion centres around charting fresh territory, creating uncluttered niche markets, inventing and reinventing brands, strategies and ideas, collaborating rather than competing, seeking synergies, delivering superior customer value, and engaging and empowering employees in meaningful work in which their creative minds find stimulation.

The liberation of creative right brain thinking is much needed, even in a legal and regulatory environment where compliance is more the order of the day than creativity. Compliance activities are prime fodder for automation and/or outsourcing. The real value add of a professional services firm is around creative thinking.

Technological advances and the increased globalisation it facilitates means that decisions need to be made in real time. Heifetz draws a distinction between authority and leadership stating that leadership is an improvisational art. It is a verb, not a noun. Warren Bennis chimes in to suggest “many CEO’s are bosses not leaders.” The act of leadership can and does occur at grass roots levels.

A major challenge in the professional services environment is how effectively you encourage risk taking and mistake making. Is it something you discourage, merely tolerate or actively encourage. Businesses are de-risked but employees must take calculated risks and have supporting organisational frameworks that encourage then to do so.

Traditional patriarchal models of leadership serve to reinforce the power base of the authority figures that created them. Leadership is not something that can be delegated. Authority is delegated but leadership is demonstrated by anyone with a heartfelt conviction in a cause. What the model needs is less authority and more people empowered to lead. It is not about delegation, it is about empowerment.

The game is changing, how to get with the program?

Here’s a quick snapshot of how you can change your firm to embrace The Rise of the Feminine:

What got you here, won’t get you there 

Marshall Goldsmith suggests that the higher up the corporate ladder you rise the more performance issues and developmental opportunities are behavioural. And for the ever busy professional it’s not simply a question of choosing what to do but moreso a question of what to STOP doing. The Rise of Feminine evokes a different more expansive way of thinking creatively. It is less about efficiency and more about effectiveness. It requires a different level of thinking to flourish in the new game. Stop, pause and reflect about behaviours such as winning too much, replaying past victories (over and over), not listening, seeing the glass half empty, finding the objection first, withholding information or opinion.
Permission to fail 

In a professional services environment we are not used to failure, and certainly not used to it being encouraged let alone condoned. Like them or not, issues around approval seeking are common within professionals services. There is no stigma, we are all human and we all feel pain. It is just that our business and leaders seldom acknowledge our humaness. Create little risk taking experiments where staff can take managed risks. It is common in the creative powerhouses of Apple and Google but rare in professional services. If you operate with a compliance mindset then technology and outsourcing will pass you by.

Resistance to change 

People don’t resist change per se, they resist loss. When change involves real or perceived loss, people will hold onto what they have and resist change. The key to leadership is to assess what kinds of loss are at stake from life and loved ones to jobs, wealth, status, relevance, community, loyalty, identity and competence. Assess, manage and provide a context for any loss and help move your people through the losses to a new place.

I have briefly touched on some of the ways The Rise of the Feminine affects business and leadership today. This feminine energy is pulling people together, being comfortable not having all the answers, not rushing to closure, listening empathetically to many and varied diverse opinions, generating creative ideas, and nurturing the capacity to take collective responsibility to solve problems and not operate in silos.

In this article we explored how The Rise of the Feminine has changed how business is being led. In our next instalment we take a quantum leap forward and explore how The Rise of the Feminine is changing the very game of business itself in The Legacy of the Feminine

by Dennis Roberts