Detoxing Culture & Healthy Masculinity

What Problem Are You Solving?

Organizations across industries face the same challenges. They range from how to recruit and retain high level talent, make full use of talent, plus how to ensure healthy internal team relationships and communication. The issue is generally framed as a how problem to be solved. I would offer, with whom can we accomplish this? is a better question.

We are in an era where patriarchal leadership is dying a slow death, making room for diversity and inclusion efforts to focus on the advancement of women and underrepresented groups, companies are beginning to realize that they’ve excluded an abundant resource from their cultural strategy: the men.

Organizations will be well served by adding intention, and specific attention to healthy masculinity as part of a cultural strategy. For organizations to be successful in creating a culture where everyone feels like they can show up to work with their whole self, the old model of patriarchal leadership isn’t the answer. Bro culture antics, fraught with toxic masculinity and unconscious leadership has to be abandoned. The men throughout organizations can choose a different approach. Detoxing masculine culture isn’t women’s work and should not burden the oppressed.The benefits of a conscious pivot are company wide.

Healthy Masculinity Must be Embraced as a Cornerstone of Leadership

Healthy masculinity requires a conscious partnership of the head and heart. It requires men in leadership who are willing to be self reflective and to have an awareness of self. It’s key that male leaders know how their masculinity plays out in the overall culture.

Along with a perspective on their inner state, male leaders must be willing to understand the awareness of the levels of toxicity present in their culture. This requires that male leaders understand and own their biases and privilege while trying to support critical inroads for women and underrepresented groups. My gender partnership work has revealed that women and underrepresented groups benefit when leaders are open to feedback, and encourage these steps in the spirit of allyship with men.

Men in leadership roles must have emotional maturity. A conscious relationship with your emotions will allow you to respond as opposed to react. Finding strength in your vulnerability will actually engender trust among those around you. Your empathy and compassion, both for yourself and others are key ingredients to healthy masculine leadership.

The value of male leadership embracing healthy masculinity is multi-faceted. Men in middle management, as well as individual contributors have a model for a new way of being. Seeing men at the top embody these qualities gives talent permission to do the same.

As a result, women and underrepresented groups can begin to feel safe. The ripple effect of psychic safety encourages everyone to bring their “A” game. Once the tone is set, it creates an enviable place to work, supporting the work to attract and retain top talent.

The win for men is that they are part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem. They are open to enjoying effective partnerships with women and underrepresented groups, plus the health effects improve their lives at home and in their communities, allowing them to pave the way for the future of men as healthy masculine role models.

Next Steps for Talent to Begin Detoxing Culture

If you are a man in leadership, I invite you to consider the following:

  1. Make the conscious decision to embark on your journey as a male ally by acknowledging that you have biases and privilege.

  2. Bring curiosity to your emotions and the choice you have to respond versus react.

  3. With this conscious partnership of the head and heart, commit to some new inclusionary actions in support of women and underrepresented groups.

  4. If you make a mistake or go unconscious, despite good intentions, and it lands on someone in the form of a micro- aggression, own it, clean it up and resolve to do better.

If you are a woman in leadership, I invite you to consider the following steps to support healthy masculine leadership:

  1. Seek out and find a man in leadership who is open to a dialogue around mutual support for his role as an ally.

  2. Acknowledge his efforts toward allyship and validate when he is headed in the right direction, this is not about giving someone an attaboy!

  3. Ask if he is open to input and if he is, give him direct feedback.

If you are a decision maker in an organization:

  1. Put your senior leaders through an ally building training that will result in walking models of ally behavior.

  2. Put your middle managers through a similar training that support their behavior change.

  3. Once these men have gone through some training, develop metrics to sustain the behavior change and link it to ROI.

To support the men in your organization and engaging them as allies, bring your team as delegation to the Better Man Conference.

Colton Edwards