A Leadership of Feminine Values


“Our society fails to appreciate the woman who quietly responds to life with intense interest and with love for people, ideas, and things. Yet these characteristics are as deeply and truly creative as are the characteristics of those who seek to lead, to act, and to achieve. We have a bias against feminine values. Not only are we too busy to adequately nurture our children, but we are also unable to truly nourish our own creativity, our personhood, our ability to take a stand for life, and our capacities to live and love from the heart.” ~ M. Harris & B. Harris, Into the Heart of the Feminine

I’ve been delving deeply into a kind of leadership that I feel we must embrace if we are going to survive. I’ve written before about this new leadership — a leadership that nourishes and nurtures, a leadership that responds to others with genuine interest and sincerity, a leadership that knows that what each of us truly desires is to be known, loved, and made useful.

We must take a stand for life. We must. The present mythology of western society is one of money. We’re living in a money myth and in this myth, money holds greater value and importance than life itself. THIS IS CRAZY. How will we survive if we hold money to be more important than life — especially life that offers no monetary value, life that cannot contribute to the culture in the way the culture demands life to be ‘valuable’ where value equals feeding the coffers?

Consider children. They do not contribute to the big money machine and notice how they are treated by our institutions. Children vs. Money? Money wins.

Consider the elderly. The elderly vs. Money. Guess what wins?

Consider the Earth. Just a big round planet of resources, right? A big round planet worth a lot of money if these resources are extracted and sold. But how do we live continue to live healthy, connected, vibrant lives on a planet that is getting sicker and sicker because we do not value that she is our home? She’s not valued as our home, she’s valued as pieces and parts. Money wins again.

But what’s under money? Power. Domination. Control.

We are trying to control life. We think we can control life. We think we can control each other. Ultimately, this is going to backfire in a big way. Instead, we must live life, honor life, nurture life, and make a stand for life, and these come out of an honoring of feminine values that are values all can support and live.

We cannot survive by fighting each other. We will not survive if we don’t begin to come together, to connect, communicate, and collaborate with great compassion.

But most importantly, we must begin to access the greater intelligence within each of us if we are to come up with the creative insight and deeply generative compassion that will bring us together and move us forward toward a new way to be here on this Earth together. This creative intelligence is accessed internally through your creativity. This is deep creativity — creativity that is the source of this greater intelligence so clearly needed.


Join me for FLOURISH, a women’s leadership course that supports a leadership of these feminine values — one that nurtures and encourages the flourishing of all of life. You will gain much awareness of who you are and what you’re here for. And you’ll come away with practices, exercises, and tools to offer to those you work with and support. We begin June 13th and scholarships are available.


To Be an Inspiring Leader, Cultivate This Most Important Skill





“…desire for expression lies deep at the heart of the invisible world. All our inner life and intimacy of soul longs to find an outer mirror. It longs for a form in which it can be seen, felt, and touched. The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression.” ~ John O’Donohue


I remember seeing the advertisement for a teacher training. It was 2002 and I had just come through a tough period in my life. I’d graduated from Stanford just a year prior and had made some fumbling attempts to find work, applying to jobs half-heartedly. It was a year of feeling unmoored like I had no idea where I was going. Nothing seemed to capture my attention or fuel any desire in me. Looking back, I suppose I was depressed on one level, but more than that I was in-between lives. I’d lost my dear husband. I’d finished a huge goal of finally getting my degree. I’d become a grandmother. And, I knew I didn’t want to go back into the work I had done before – the world of banking and information technology. Nothing had captured my desire until I saw this advertisement.

The teacher training was to teach ‘Creativity in Business’, a course that was offered for twenty-five years at the Stanford Business School. The word Creativity jumped out at me. It sent shivers of aliveness through my body – even a tinge of joy.

The business part was okay. There wasn’t much there, but Creativity? Oh, yes!

I signed up that day and my new line of work was launched – even though it would be some time before I had a sense of what the work was to be.

Since that day fourteen years ago, my work has changed and morphed in many ways. As my new life unfolded, my work followed suit.

But, this word, Creativity. I’ve come to know it as something that is as natural as breathing. We are hard-wired, and perhaps soft-wired, too, to create. It’s in our cells. It’s in our soul. It is the nature of life.

Over these years, I’ve worked with many people who (at first) were convinced they weren’t creative. Convinced. After the very first exercise I offer, they could no longer claim to lack this native ability.

We’ve been taught to believe creativity equals artistic talent, so much so that many of us are dying inside, our inner world becoming harsh and dry because this elemental need is going unmet. It is an absolute need we have as human beings, yet our current culture does not honor this need, and in fact, can make it very hard to meet it.

The thing is, though, WE are the culture. We can change the culture by changing how we are about creativity, not only within ourselves but also in how we honor it in others.

When we criticize, judge, and devalue one’s creative expression, including our own, we are stifling this expression. When we do this, we kill access to the source of innovation and leadership we need to be successful in our own lives, as well as that which we need as a culture to make the great strides we must make in these times.

Creativity is the source of innovation and authentic leadership, and its expression is a deep source of joy.

Our creativity IS life’s desire to live beyond itself.

If you are in a position of leadership where you influence and help craft work culture, pay attention to how free people feel to express themselves creatively. Creativity is what they do when they don’t know an answer to a question being posed or a problem to be solved. It’s how they navigate difficult conversations and relationships. It’s how they collaborate with others. Do they feel free to share ideas without fearing judgment and criticism? Or are they silenced before the deep answer can come? These are all rich opportunities for one’s soul to come forth, but soul won’t when the fear of judgment and criticism shuts things down.

And, yes, outside of work, the same holds true. Notice how your home ‘culture’ supports creative expression. Is there a sense of possibility and discovery when things aren’t known, or is there a fear of the unknown and a tightness about making mistakes? And, if you are a parent, how might you consciously encourage this need for soul’s expression in your children?

When you come to know you are creative, truly creative, you no longer fear the unknown in a way that shuts down your capacity for expression. Fear might always be there, lurking on the sidelines, but creative confidence allows us to be in the place of “I don’t know” with a faith and trust in your ability to bring something forth into form.

Soul IS the source of our creativity, and soul is intimate. It longs to be seen and touched. And it longs to touch. But, it will shrink back from harsh criticism. Trust, respect, and deep listening go a long way to encourage expression – both in yourself and in others.

Taking it one step deeper, knowing this need to express is at the heart of life can bring you closer to knowing and feeling this impulse within yourself. And when you do, you can trust in the same capacity in others. This is one of the most important leadership skills you can cultivate – the ability to foster a culture that encourages and supports creative expression both within yourself and in everyone you interact with.

The secret to doing so? Trusting that the “desire for expression lies deep at the heart of the invisible world”. And to do that, we must trust in the invisible, inner life of soul itself.

Remember how I felt when I saw the word Creativity? ALIVE. I felt alive. That was soul speaking to me after a year of dark wandering. Ultimately, that is what we really want – to feel alive. So beautifully alive.





What Do You Love To Do?


Wonder and Beauty

Have you ever wondered what you are here to do? Perhaps a tell-tale sign of this is what brings you alive…

Last night, while I was writing, I peeked outside and saw the most beautiful clouds. They dotted the sky like a million pillows.

Clouds and Attics

Something about the sky drew me outside, like a call to my soul. I feel that sometimes. I feel the call from the wild world, the real world that’s always waiting for me to snap out of the day-to-day sameness within which the conditioned mind likes to confine itself. So I answered the call. I stepped outside.

The wind was billowing. The sky was filled with a zillion colors. The evening sky had a magical quality to it. As I so often do when I’m reveling in the mysterious unfoldment of life, I took pictures. I love the experience of capturing a moment in life that speaks to me. When life presents such beauty, I meet it willingly with open arms and an open shutter.

This picture, Clouds and Attics, captured the magic of yesterday’s evening sky as it poured itself over the place I live.

A friend of mine, Rachael Maddox, recently commented on one of my Instagram photos, “I love your love for beauty.” Her words resonated deeply. I become intoxicated with something hard to put into words when I witness beauty. I suppose that ‘something’ is love, the divine, the no-word-for experience of witnessing the magic of ordinary life.

When I read Rachael’s words, something opened inside me. A remembering. A knowing. A recognition of what is true for this woman’s soul. I’ve often chuckled at myself, because I take so many  close-ups of flowers. And I never grow tired of doing so.

Even if they all look alike to an eye that only sees the word and concept ‘flower’ when seeing a flower, when I really see a flower, it is wholly unique and in seeing that uniqueness wonder seems to simply appear.

Do What You Love

Currently, I am teaching two courses, Creativity and Leadership, and The Whole Woman, both based on a course originally taught at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

In my courses, we talk about purpose as more of a quality of essence we each bring to life, a unique expression of the divine.

To discover purpose, each student lists what they love to do and what they hate to do, and then looks for the qualities inherent in the love-to-do list, and missing in the hate-to-do list. This process is always eye-opening for people.

We are most happy when we are bringing these qualities of essence to everything we do. For me, qualities of wonder, mystery and beauty are must-haves in what I do. They immediately bring me present to the wonder of life as it is, right now, not as I would like it to be. They light up a quiet joy within me, a thick peace that permeates everything.

I find these qualities a must-have for coaching. When I bring them to client calls, I find myself in wonder about my client, always remembering they are a mystery unfolding before my eyes.

To me, that is such a gift. It’s a constant reminder to me to be in the state of not-knowing who this person is, to listen deeply to what is being said, in order to hear them rather than my own mind-chatter about who I imagine them to be.

And, you?

What do you love to do? What are the qualities of your essence, that when brought to everything you do, bring you fully alive?

Take some time to wonder and discover. And really question what it is you think you love. Move past what you’ve been told you should love, and listen to your body instead. It will let you know beyond any doubt about what you truly love.

If you want to discover more about who you really are, drop me a line at julie at gmail (dot) com, or sign-up to receive my posts by email by completing the box at the top right of this page.

This is at the heart of what I do in the world…


Work and Creative Desire


Creativity in Work

I’m preparing to co-teach the annual fall class, Creativity and Leadership, at Stanford Continuing Studies. We have a full house, again: 50 students.

Much of this particular course is based on the Stanford Graduate School of Business course, ‘Creativity in Business’. In its day, it was a highly popular course for business students, many of whom went on to create some of the core businesses that were the foundation of what has become Silicon Valley.

In this class we speak of Self and Work, capitalized with intention. Self is a term many are familiar with: who you truly are, your deep Self, Essence, true nature. Many aren’t as familiar to Work, to what it means when we capitalize the ‘W’.

“W” is the work of your life. Some may refer to this as purpose. I like to think of it as that which brings you most alive.

Spiraling Deeper

I’ve been wrestling with this very question, myself.

I spent many years working as a programmer/analyst for a financial institution. While I loved programming, it certainly wasn’t my Work.

After I graduated from school in mid-life, I could see that I did not want to spend more decades doing that work.

So I ventured out to find something else. I became a coach, a teacher of Creativity in Business, and subsequently a writer. I’ve been teaching this material for eight years, now, and I have to admit, even as a teacher, and maybe most especially because I teach this work, I’ve been spiraling down closer and closer to discovering what I love.

Re-discovering what we love (and yes it is re-discovering, since we did know it in our youth) is integral to learning to love oneself. After all, to truly honor what we love, what is at the heart of our soul’s deepest longing, is both honoring of Self, and honoring of the Sacred.

I’ve kept what I love deep down in places where I can’t see it, where it can’t pull at my heart. It is painful to do what you don’t love for over forty hours per week.

I put what I love away a long, long time ago when I was very young and decided that I shouldn’t love it, but instead should love what I saw adults in my life doing. After all, they were the wise ones, right?

Not. So. Fast.

The juicy joy of doing what you love makes you come alive. Deeply alive.

The sheer pleasure of doing what the soul loves emanates love from the soul into the world.

Think about it. When someone spends decades doing work they are ambivalent about, maybe even hate, what kind of effect does that have on them? on the people around them? the world around them? the world at large?

What is the wisdom, here?

Creative Desire

I’ve been writing (for the course I’m teaching this fall in Berkeley, The Whole Woman) about what it would be to ‘work’ from creative desire, pleasure, love and joy, rather than from striving, pushing, and sheer will. Flow doesn’t happen from the latter.

For many of us, just considering our desires and pleasure causes us to cramp, to contract, to tighten up. Yet, when we are in the place of pleasure and joy, there can be a delicious kind of freedom and devotion to beauty, to harmony and love, even to the truth.

My friend, Mandy Blake, shares the following quote on her site, and for me it truly speaks to what a shift from work to Work might mean for us all…

“I feel that the attitude “work is a means to an end, which you have to put up with to get to the fun in life” is pathological.  I think it results in no end of harm.  The philosopher David Hume had a motto which was “work is its own reward.”  If this thought is just meant to express the Protestant work ethic gone mad, then I think it is awful.  But if it means we should do the work which is of itself fulfilling and meaningful then I think it is right.  If people the world over stopped doing the work they didn’t believe in there would be no arms trade, more equality, and greater well-being for everyone.”  ~Robert Poynton

The Artist in Me

I am coming to the place where I can finally re-claim the artist within. As a child, I love to paint. As a teenager, I painted in oils, taking after my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. I have paintings painted by each of these women in my matriline. Yet, at some point, I put down the brush.

One way of seeing this is to do what we love as a hobby, while doing what we’re ‘good’ at or what can make us a lot of money for a living. And, there might be a different way…

A question I’m exploring:

Can what brings us pleasure, sheer pleasure and joy, be what financially supports us and helps us to remember the sacred to a world that seems to have forgotten what these are?

I do know if so, it will be because rather than my intention being to save the world, my intention must be to do what I love, while I let go of the outcome. Perhaps it’s as simple as people doing what the soul loves, emanates the beauty, the peace, the joy that is at the heart of a truly alive world, a world that is sacred.

While my soul comes alive through art, creativity is NOT about art…it is about the art of being fully human. Creativity is what we are. It’s our nature. We are all creative creators.

And, you?

Take a moment to consider what it is you really love to do. Not what you’ve been conditioned to love, or taught to love, or believe you are supposed to love, but that which, when you do it, causes you to forget time, feel most alive, joyous and a deeply connected part of this wild and wooly world.

Can you let yourself do what you truly love?

Can you know you deserve to do what you love, and that the world might be better off for you doing what you love?

What is your Work?

Early Bird Discount

Tomorrow, September 18th, is the last day for the Early Bird discount for my new course, The Whole Woman. If you live in the Bay Area, or know someone who does, check it out here, and register here. I’d love to have you join me.

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