The Sister Circle as a Powerful Leadership Paradigm

Sylvie was preparing for the Naplan test earlier this year. She came home and quoted the “strongest shape is the triangle”. Thus ensued a conversation about the power of non-hierarchical leadership imbued with collaboration, connection and consensus. We spoke at length about the strength of the circle shape and its specific strengths. Of course I warned Sylvie “don’t put that in your Naplan test, it will only handle certainty.”

If the triangle represents a centralised power model, then the circle reminds us that power lies in the hands of each and everyone of us. The circle makes the shape of human empowerment.

Sylvie’s year 3-education surmises what happens with the strength of women’s leadership models. The power of the form of the circle has been swept aside. The top down model of the triangle favoured instead. Indoctrinated in our early years into the superiority of the triangle for its strength many of us feel fear about other models of community functioning. How on Earth could it be any different? This precise question was central to the last women’s retreat that I hosted.

The theme, raised by the participants themselves was about showing up in the workplace and other public spaces as strong leaders. What they wished for was a being able to drop the masks that they adopted in so many areas of their public lives. The place this was hardest to do for them was their workplaces. The general comment was they, couldn’t be this person, this free, sensitive, emotional and loving person in the workplace. I wonder how many of you feel this pressure, to cut yourself off to enter a workplace? How much does it leave us dry and sterile? Deeply disconnected and disillusioned? Of course it also gives such possibility for what could it be like if we all, women and med, decided to show up in human being, in public spaces? The circle fosters this sense of beingness. There is a respect and connection that can be present that enables us each to be seen. This seems to enable the full integration of a head, heart and hands approach that often seems to be lacking in public spaces, such as offices. The result is a feeling of dryness and the accompanying disillusionment.

Now back to the sister circle, there can be stereotypes of the sister circle as hippy woo woo crap. Of course, I can’t speak for them all but the essence of the circle itself, holds no specific set of beliefs or practices. It is simply a circle and a different way of relating. It is adaptable and doesn’t need to conform to a position of ‘other’ where this kind of relating has found its refuge.

You would probably know by now that I love to draw women together in the process of the circle. The sharing and the knowing are beyond almost anything I have encountered before. It is deep and it is powerful. We dive in and open up in ways that I hope continues to take my breath away. However I don’t intend this work to be on the margins. I never have. I don’t want to pigeonhole the power of the circle to the periphery of the community only to be held in small, out of the way community halls, parks and beaches. Women’s contribution has too often been relegated into the private space. For women the only way they have been able to ‘show up’ in the public space has been to replicate the masculine and to play to these rules. I never mean to continue the code that sees this way of being as alternative, maligned or unable to contribute to the economics, politics and indeed the heart of the centralisation of power. The more we perpetuate this as a fringe space, the more we continue to under estimate our own power. Now I know that this is a difficult integration to happen. However there is a calling right now that demands a new paradigm be born. If you know you are a leader of an empathic, just and community driven world. If you are one of the leaders of this evolution, it is time to make yourself known. Stand up and be seen. My mission is not to perpetuate this as the second way. My mission is to support women to take their knowledge and strength wherever she is.

The circle represents consensus, collaboration, equality, unity and diversity. The circle demonstrates the power of listening. The circle values stories, creation and integration. The strength of the circle lies in its devolution of power and the knowing by each participant in their full and equal humanity. It is through the model of human empowerment that the subsequent processes of action and tangible compassion can be enacted. This doesn’t happen when we are waiting for those brokering power at the top of the triangle to act. It is impossible for a few to make the changes for many. When we give up our power to a model that demands it, we forget our own.

I find one of the most powerful ways to regain this power is to make the shape of a circle with other humans. There is an immediate embodied recognition of sameness and simultaneous diversity. It is the shape says it all.

Katie Carter is the Founder of Womenkind. She is a passionate advocate of justice, community and human rights for all. She believes in a devolved system of power that recognises the vulnerable and values diversity. Her stuff spans mental health, wellbeing, spirituality and relationship. You will find her writing, coaching, speaking and researching via her website.

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