A Recap — Fatherhood: The Making of Leaders

In the last live show of June, “Leading Masculine Care”, Malar and Sharm did a wrap-up of all the month’s episodes, which were themed Fatherhood: The Making of Leaders. They dived into the importance of a father’s role in their child’s life and linked masculine care to leadership in the corporate world. In June, Malar and Sharm brought on four amazing leaders in their field who gave insights into their experiences with fathers and leadership. The recap episode covered the gems of knowledge we learned from the wonderful guests over the course of the month. Combining all the lessons we learnt, we’ll dive into the importance of leading with masculine care, attaining masculine well-being for a healthier world, and achieving balance in our masculine and feminine energies in our professional development to lead effectively.

In the first episode “The One With The Champion”, Country Managing Director of Accenture Malaysia, Azwan Baharuddin, was invited to share his relationship with his father who is his ever-constant role model that has influenced his idea of leadership and impacted his ways of decision making. The following week, Reuben Ong was invited to “The One With The Community Builder” to discuss how the absence of his father led him to find other father figures that built strength and resilience in him. The next guest on “The One With The Nation Builder” was legal advisor Nagavalli Annamalai who shared how leaders act as father figures in nation-building. As our final guest on, “The One About Finding Equilibrium”, Lawrence Mitchell shared the significance of equilibrium in a changing world and finding the balance between your masculine and feminine energies. Despite their different stories and approaches, the guests of June have all taught us some key learning lessons about masculine care in our journey towards learning and development.

The importance of fatherhood

Research by Fatherhood Resourced Hub has shown how fathers are an integral part of a child’s development. Involved and absent fathers have different impacts on their children’s lives. According to studies, children who grew up with involved fathers are less likely to fall into negative situations like being suspended in school, teen birth or engaging in crime. On the other hand, children with absent fathers are more likely to commit crimes when they grow older. These children usually struggle with abandonment or low self-esteem issues due to the neglect of a parent. As young children, it may be difficult to comprehend these emotions, which can manifest into behavioural problems and delinquency.

Another implication of absent fathers is living in a single-parent household where the mother has to manage a huge responsibility on her own. This can trickle down to the children where young kids are expected to grow up faster than they should. In young boys, they may be forced to suppress their vulnerable emotions to appear stronger in such situations, which can lead to violent behaviours or even depressive episodes.

Masculine well-being

The world has shifted in the last decade to embrace equality for women. While this is a great step, we should also leave the discussion open to men’s concerns. It’s important to provide empowerment for both men and women or risk causing another imbalance. For example, men’s well-being is often overlooked, which can affect their psychological and emotional state. Our guests of the month tackled this topic and unpacked masculine vulnerability in a world where men are shamed for showing emotions.

With the research and data that Malar and Sharm found about the importance of masculine care, they aimed to draw attention to achieving psychological safety in the office by  moulding positive masculine energy with corporate leaders paving the way for their team. 

It is proven that suppressing one’s emotions, especially in men, has terrible repercussions. A statistic presented by Malar and Sharm stated that boys below the age of two are more expressive than girls. So why exactly are men expected to be less emotional than women? The phrases ‘Don’t be a cry baby’, ‘Don’t cry like a girl’, ‘Man up’, and ‘Strong men don’t cry’ are commonly used on young males when they’re feeling emotional. These comments have terrible impacts that force men to hide their emotions and vulnerability. When these emotions are considered ‘weak’ in men, men themselves don’t understand how to manage their true feelings even in emotionally destructive situations.

Statistics show that on average, there are 139 suicides every day and out of these 139, there are three times more male suicides than females. Often, the symptoms of depression in men are overlooked and are assumed to be their masculine nature. Some of the most common symptoms of depression in men are:

  • Eating disorders
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Hiding their feelings of sadness in the shadows of rage and anger
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Lack of concentration

Most of the time, men may even suppress or overlook these symptoms as they don’t want to appear weak even though these are dangerous feelings that need special attention. The statistics report presented by Malar and Sharm also showed that suicide rates in developed countries are higher when compared to others. This shows that even though people have access to more resources in developed countries, they are more stressed and helpless.

So what as a society can we offer to men that will help dismantle destructive masculine behaviours and bring about equilibrium? Firstly, we shouldn’t view depression in men as a trivial matter. Secondly, we need to shift our expectations of men and how we react to their emotions. Lastly, we have to help them express their emotions healthily. These three solutions require us to have a different mindset and reaction to emotions in men than what we’ve been stereotyped to believe. Providing that emotional space that is safe and comfortable can help men be more expressive and achieve equilibrium.

The masculine-feminine balance

Finding equilibrium requires us to balance our masculine and feminine energies but what exactly are they? Malar and Sharm further categorised them into divine masculine and divine feminine as well as wounded masculine and wounded feminine. These are some examples of divine masculine and feminine energies:

  • Divine masculine: supportive, humble, confident, protective 
  • Divine feminine: Intuitive, grounded, receptive, creative 

While these are positive traits, the wounded energies are negative implications of our childhood. When some children experience traumatic or emotional incidents, they may grow up to reflect the impact of those experiences through their behaviours. For example, children that may have had to protect themselves from abusive parents may grow up to become bosses that are controlling and aggressive. These behaviours are a reflection of the trauma they had to go through and are now translated to their work-life as well. When leaders bring their wounds to the workplace, they also affect the psychological safety of the office, negatively impacting their team. Despite these wounds, leaders can still develop leadership skills to become more balanced and reach their optimal performance.

Malar and Sharm mapped out the four pillars of leadership that leaders should adopt: trust, accountability, knowledge and transparency. These pillars are also categorised into masculine and feminine energies where accountability is masculine and trust and transparency are feminine. Building trust requires leaders to show vulnerability to their team but this may be challenging for men especially when they are not expected to be emotional. Therefore, it is imperative to change your mindset and behaviours as male leaders to embrace emotions and share your vulnerable feelings with your team members. This also allows them to connect with you on a deeper level for smooth collaboration and communication. Besides building trust in teams, good leaders are able to stay organised and focused, remain authentic and empower their team. These qualities require both masculine and feminine energy, showing the importance of maintaining equilibrium as a leader.

Parents have the responsibility to provide their children with a safe space to express themselves right from their early years. Young males may even need more attention in their teenage years so they can comfortably express themselves in front of others. Their ability to express emotions healthily starts in the home and if a child is not fit for handling conflicts at home, they may struggle when they get older as leaders in the corporate world.

Even if you find yourself struggling with destructive emotions as a leader, it is still possible to develop leadership skills by analysing your traits. First, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses through feedback or even self-reflection. You may be resilient and persevering but also lack the emotional intelligence to build trust in your team. Work on those weak points and try to reach your equilibrium point.

We were very fortunate to have such great discussions with our June guests where they shared insightful learning lessons about their experiences in the leadership field and shed some light on the masked issues of masculine well-being. Our theme of Fatherhood serves as a reminder that fathers are an integral part of our lives and they have the ability to mould us into empathetic yet strong leaders in the 21st century.

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