The King of Spade and Queen of Hearts: Play All the Cards in Your Hand

Did you know that for each deck of 52 cards, there are more than 2.5 million possible poker hands? As the famous card player Wyatt Earp once said, “Every hand has its problems, but every hand can be a winner.” It is human nature to look at the hand we were dealt, see its shortcomings, and wish it were different. But if we throw away a card and draw another, we just end up with a different set of problems. We can all be winners if we play the hand we were dealt, and to do that we must access the masculine and feminine energy present in each of us.

Masculine energy knows the rules of the game; it has a strategy and isn’t afraid to take a risk. It goes for it! Feminine energy, however, monitors the flicker in the eye, the sweat on the brow, and the veins in the neck. It has the intuition to instruct the masculine energy when to make its move. When the feminine energy of intuition flows into the masculine energy of action, great things can happen. Without this balance, though, your hand will never experience the riches available to it.

When he took a run at RJR Nabisco in the late 1980’s, CEO Ross Johnson lost his hand in the high stakes game. One of the biggest leveraged buyout attempts in history, the story became a book and later a movie called Barbarians at the Gate. Johnson failed miserably because he and his cohorts were way out of balance. Someone sprinkled too much masculine energy on their Wheaties, and when masculine energy is out of whack it wants action solely for the sake of action.

The “Barbarians” at RJR Nabisco weren’t concerned with anybody or anything but the almighty dollar, and they were addicted to stirring things up. If no deal was to be had that day, they’d reorganize the office and change its reporting structure. It was utter chaos for their employees, but those in charge had a desperate need for frenzied activity.

The answer for those “Barbarians” would have been to insert a little “Barbarella” into the mix. Feminine energy is all about focusing on the needs of others, rather than one’s own. It is more relaxed, reflective, and facilitative. It establishes a value system that imbues action with meaning. We need both the reason for being and the ability to make that reason a reality.

Too much feminine energy would be “Barbarellas at the Gate” and they wouldn’t be knocking – they’d be immersed in their feelings, paralyzed that any action may offend someone. They would call a group meeting to discuss things once again, long after it was time to make a decision. With too much feminine energy deals don’t get closed, decisions don’t get made, and prospects are never converted to clients. An overabundance of feminine energy, therefore, doesn’t work either.

Both energies have strengths but both become weaknesses if some of the opposite energy isn’t brought in to balance the other. For example, masculine energy likes to project its ideas onto others but feminine energy is more concerned with drawing thoughts and ideas out of others. I once worked for a man who always believed that his opinion was the only one and he spent valuable time convincing others that he was right. He operated with too much masculine energy. On the flip side, someone who always listens politely to others and is afraid to be assertive expresses too much feminine energy. It sounds simple, but we all know that a combination of both talking and listening will garner the best results.

Masculine energy likes to take the helm and be the leader of the pack, while feminine energy is facilitative, nudging from behind. Emergency situations call for a leader to take charge and make a decisive decision. But a leader who does this all the time, regardless of the situation, doesn’t give employees an opportunity to develop. By allowing others to make their own decisions mentors build successors, just as parents train their children to live away from home. A leader who practices both energies knows when to step forward and when to delegate.

The trick is for each of us to learn to use both energies so that one energy can mitigate the other, preventing neither from getting out of whack. To play all the cards in our hand we have to start by understanding the power of both energies. We also need to be aware of our natural inclination – where we feel the most comfortable. That’s the first Stilletto Step of Self-Awareness. Then it’s important to take the second Stilletto Step and accept the characteristics of each energy without labeling one “right” and the other “wrong.” By accepting that both have value, we can consciously “try the other energy on for size.” Just like at the poker table, changing your pattern of raises and bets increases the opportunities for the cards in your hand.

The English journalist Tony Holden once said, “One’s character is laid bare at the poker table. Unless we are prepared to see ourselves as others do, flaws and all, we’ll be a loser in poker and in life.” Effective leaders know their energy preference, but can fluidly move back and forth between both energies, using their masculine energy to drive forward from the feminine energy of reflection. This is good Gender Physics – accomplishing your goals by playing all the cards in your hand.

Let’s shuffle and deal.