I let out an audible sigh.
“What’s going on, Allison?” asked my colleague, who was leading a train-the-trainer certification program in which I was a participant.
“Maybe I need more drive,” I wondered aloud. And sighed again.
We were exploring common assumptions about the ideal mix of personality traits that people associate with good leadership, such as: extroverted, assertive, competitive, driven. While this cluster of Masculine traits is what most people think of when they think of the stereotypical powerful leader, it does not describe the actual typology of most successful leaders. Good leadership comes in a variety of different packages.
But this was the least of my concerns in the moment.
It was the last trait -- drive -- that was getting under my skin. I scored low on drive on the personality assessment we had just taken.
Maybe I need more drive.
Recently, when I committed to make a bigger impact with Sophia Leadership, I told myself that I would need to kick into “drive mode.” After all, that’s what it takes to turn a passion project into a material business... right?
That evening, I brought this idea to a business coach whom I was considering working with. “I might need support to boost my drive,” I told her. In the next moment, she dropped me like a hot potato – because she only works with business owners who have high drive. Sigh.
This third sigh of the day really got my attention.
Is drive the only motivator for committed action? If so, why does it feel yucky to me?
Suddenly, a memory surfaced: Earlier in my career as a leadership consultant, I’d had enough drive to turn a request for executive coaching into a large organizational culture transformation project. I focused my energy for two years, trying to heal this sick organization (whose purpose was to heal the sick!). During this time, my drive turned into overdrive. I worked many late nights and weekends, while raising two boys as a single mom.
By the end of that gig, I was sick, too! I spent another two years healing from adrenal fatigue.
When drive becomes overdrive
Is drive always a bad thing? Of course not. Drive is the fuel that most people use to get things done. It can be quite energizing – especially for people who have a more Masculine essence.
However, when drive is overused and ego-infused, it becomes toxic – especially for people like me, who have a Feminine essence.
I realize now that I threw myself into that consulting gig not only because it was urgent and important (we were saving people’s lives!), but also because my ego wanted to a hyper-Masculine corporate culture and trying to prove that I was good at my job. This was extremely costly.
For many women, running on overdrive -- in other words, running too much Masculine energy -- is like running diesel fuel through a regular engine. We can do it for awhile, but it’s not sustainable. It’s draining instead of energizing. It’s not life-giving.
So after healing from adrenal fatigue, I shifted out of drive mode. I’ve brought other things to the table -- competence, intelligence, intuition, compassion, and a high value for excellence. With these golden nuggets, I’ve done great work without making myself sick.
Yet, drive remains deeply embedded in our culture as the only way to be successful in business. So as I pondered how to give my life energy to my fledgling business, the question came up again: How will Sophia Leadership fulfill its mission if I don’t drive it?
I took this inquiry into my meditation, praying for guidance from Sophia.
We are called to devotion
“More devotion,” Sophia answered, quite fiercely (the Sacred Feminine is not always soft!)
As I see it, devotion is more than just the Feminine counter-balance to drive. In polarity terms, “driving to make things happen” (Masculine) is often paired with "allowing things to emerge" or "embracing what is" (both Feminine).
Devotion seems to be at another level entirely.
Sophia was suggesting a profound shift in the way I was relating to my work, and the energy that I bring to it. She was showing me that Sophia Leadership is its own thing, its own entity. She was very clear that Sophia Leadership is not in service to my ego; I am in service to it.
She showed me who’s really in charge.
Let's take a moment now to feel into the energies of drive and devotion:
Drive: Vigorous course toward a goal or objective.
Devotion: Love, worship, an act of prayer.
Can you feel the difference?
Sophia was suggesting that I check my ego at the door and step into Her temple, with an air of reverence. She wanted me to open my heart, surrender to Her guidance, and release my attachment to the outcome.
She was asking me to relate to my work as an act of of devotion, an act of prayer.
An active prayer.
I may not be able to live up to such a big ask, but I’m incredibly motivated to try.
What I’m talking about here is more a shift in consciousness than a shift in behavior. In business, the behaviors that flow from devotion might look similar to behaviors that flow from drive: making decisions, tending tasks, tracking results.
But the energy is entirely different.
The energy of devotion arises in the heart center and is sourced in Love. It generates gratitude and joy. Devotion is life-giving.
On our little Sophia Leadership team, we like to imagine that with the completion of every task, we are laying a flower upon Sophia's altar. We are creating Beauty, and expanding Love.
How would your life change if your work became an act of prayer… an active prayer... Devotion?