Since this may not be a style of leadership that has been recognized or encouraged in us, we may not yet be skilled in it. And if we’ve found ourselves in contexts which resent or dismiss this kind of knowing, we may still be smarting from the ways it’s been shamed. And since this kind of knowing may happen on an instinctual level, we can’t always explain or defend it. We may often feel overwhelmed by it. Being overwhelmed is not a trait we look for in leaders. How can we recognize these gifts in ourselves and one another? How can we help our brothers in leadership recognize these gifts in us without undermining their natural leadership gifts? How can we ask them for space to test our natural gifts?
The funny thing is that as I’ve explored these possibilities, I’ve realized it’s not only an issue for women. As I’ve taken the risk to lead from and name these parts of myself, my brothers who are artistic or emotionally intelligent have also found healing. This has opened up a wonderful possibility for me: What if this way of engaging as whole people—thinking, feeling, intuitive, embodied beings—is what we’re all called to? Perhaps our education and our culture has taken some natural gender-related leanings and amplified them, as it has with so many gender-related things, creating extreme caricatures out of two different ways of being that are supposed to be two halves of one whole. Perhaps this way of engaging as whole beings is something we all can do? Perhaps, as those who may have been encouraged more in those tendencies (even if outside of traditional education settings), women can lead the way on this kind of healing? Maybe as we invite women into leadership, and truly let them lead in their own way, we all will see new ways to lead and new ways to be human?
As I’ve been writing this article, I’ve been deeply aware of how subjective this all seems because I haven’t yet quoted Scripture. But the entire time, I’ve had in my heart the image of the woman who anoints Jesus with her perfume. In Mark 14, she is so overwhelmed that she takes this oil worth a year’s wages and drenches Jesus with it. We don’t know why she does it, and in Mark’s telling, she speaks no words. We don’t know if she understands all the Messianic metaphors this kind of anointing brings to mind or the burial allusion Jesus sees. But she gets Jesus on a level that goes beyond words. He has touched her life so completely that she is moved to this seemingly irrational act. Others scold her. They call her wasteful and foolish because they can’t understand. But she gets Jesus in a way they never did. And as Jesus promised, her testimony has passed on through generations. She is not only valued but held up as a model.