Beyond Teal : The Androgynous Organisation (T.A.O.)

Timothée Brès
9 min readNov 5, 2023

This the first part of a 3-parts-series :

[ T.A.O. is an acronym without any direct link with Taoism ]

Wildfires in Canada — 2023

With natural disasters, wars, pollution, addiction… all contributing to GDP growth, the relevancy of this indicator as measure of development and well being of a nation is being questioned.

The Androgynous Organisation (T.A.O.) is a pioneering action/research initiative dedicated to exploring how to (re)align growth with “meaning” (or the values that really matter to us).

This project serves as a guide for teams seeking to scale their impact while maintain alignment with their core values.


Androgynous comes from the greek “andro” (man) and “gyné” (woman).

Greek ancient art

Like an androgynous person, an androgynous organisation can adapt its shape in function of the context. More specifically, its mode of operating : centralised (top down-directive) or decentralised (bottom up-participative).

At the individual level, an androgynous leader has the necessary mental & emotional agility to lead/follow, direct/listen, step in/step back, open/close… in the right way and in the right context.

The blind spots of decentralised organisations

I’ve been working for the last 10 years with many different types of decentralised, self managed and “non-hierarchical” forms of collectives.

Eco-villages, cooperatives, off-grid communities, activist movements, networked organisations, DAOs (Decentralised Autonomous Organisations) freelance collectives or impact start-ups using collaborative governance structures like holacracy or sociocracy.

Beyond the numerous positive aspects these models can provide (collaborative workflow, scalability, innovation, flexibility…), I’ve also witnessed some unhealthy patterns, repeating again & again.

Some of the most common organisational blindspots when moving away from the traditional top-down / centralised model :

  • Hierarchy: From domination hierarchy, where power is clear but oppressive, to shadow hierarchy, where power is invisible and potentially manipulative.
  • Communication: From aggressive communication and direct confrontation to passive-aggressiveness and conflict avoidance.
  • Boundaries: From explicit and rigid to flexible but ambiguous boundaries leading to collaboration chaos, role confusion and lack of individual accountability.
  • Decision Making: From autocratic decision-making that may be efficient but authoritarian, to participative decision making, where the desire for unanimous agreement can lead to decision paralysis.
  • Competition: From the shadows of competition, where predatory practices lead to burn out, extraction and negative externalities, to the shadows of collaboration, where competition becomes implicit and groupthink limits the diversity of perspectives.
  • Responsibilities: From clear but rigid responsibilities that may stifle autonomy & creativity to the dilution of responsibility, where individual contributions become less visible resulting in a lack of direction and diffuse personal accountability.

A new story

I felt it was time for a new horizon.

One that can address the root of these blindspots without falling back into old ways of leading & organising.

Many of these blindspots actually stem from reacting against traditional structures (like hierarchy, patriarchy, capitalism…) This reaction aims at creating something radically different, yet ironically, it remains defined by the very systems it opposes.

No human society started from a blank page. We always progress by integrating the most valuable elements from both our past and current context. And this approach is not just sociological but also physiological.

How to shift from a reactionary stance against traditional structures to a more responsive approach? One that is able to oppose their limitations & shadows while honouring & preserving the most useful aspects ?

When there is reaction, there is a wound

Our perception is shaped by past experiences, which can trigger automatic “fight or flight” reactions, leading to a loss of nuance and an oversimplified, binary worldview. Recognising these reactions as indicators of underlying wounds is key for regaining a nuanced understanding and the ability to discern subtleties. Moving beyond binary thinking while still maintaining clear discernment.

This understanding is at the core of The Androgynous Organisation action/research project : how to take the best (and leave the rest) of both old & new organisational/leadership models ?

T.A.O. level 1 : synthesis

Hegelian dialectics *simplified* as “thesis anti-thesis, synthesis” is my favorite model to look at the future of leadership & organisations.

  • Triangle : centralised, top-down, directive (“yang” energy)
  • Circle : decentralised, bottom-up, participative (“yin” energy)
  • Triangle/Circle : the androgynous synthesis

To unlock impact AND alignment at scale, an androgynous organisation or leader needs to have the capacity to tap into both polarities in function of the context.

For example :

  • Androgynous Hierarchy: combining natural, experience and competence based hierarchy with a decentralised structure and participative processes.
  • Androgynous Boundaries : clear and explicit but also flexible and empowering boundaries.
  • Androgynous Leadership : having both leadership (yang) & followership (yin) capacities.
  • Coopetition : combining healthy competition (explicit, respectful, playful) with deep and embodied collaborative principles.
  • Group Coherence : the collective capacity to hold intensity and to synchronize individual needs with collective alignment.
  • Assertiveness: explicit, clear and compassionate communication (beyond dominant confrontation or passive aggressiveness).
  • Emotional agility : capacity to express both sadness (connection and empathy) and anger (separation and clear boundaries) in a healthy way.

This 2 dimensional approach is useful at first, but limited. For, more precision & impact, discover the 4 polarities approach, inspired by the work of Genia Haddon presented here by Charles Eisenstein (2007).

TAO Level 2 : from two to four polarities

Masculine & feminine : these terms are often used to describe qualities or characteristics traditionally associated with men and women, respectively. However, in this context of leadership and organisational behavior, they transcend gender.

Many different models differentiates 2 types of masculine & feminine polarities : Yin/Yang, Receptive/Active, Inner/Outer, Dark/Light, Intuitive/Logical, Flow/Structure, Emotional/Rational…

I’ll be using here the the yin/yang one.

Yin and Yang are concepts from ancient Chinese philosophy, used to describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interdependent in the natural world. The yin aspect represents the more receptive side and the yang, represents the more active one.

You can see this second level as the result of a “kick in the dialectical pendulum”, moving from a linear oscillation between 2 polarities to a dynamic oscillation between 4 polarities (starting from the feminine yang, the life creation force).

The masculine yin & the feminine yang

  • Feminine Yang = CHAOS : dynamic energy, resilience, and intuition, often leading to pioneering and creative problem-solving. The shadow aspect is impulsiveness and a disregard for established processes, risking instability and confusion within the team.
  • Masculine Yin = ORDER : stability, order, grounding & presence for strong foundations and calm guidance. Shadow side can manifest as rigidity and resistance to change, potentially stifling innovation and adaptability.

For a system to be generative, the masculine should be in devotion to the feminine, while the feminine should honour the masculine.

The traditional polarities :

  • Masculine Yang = ACTION : assertiveness, decisiveness, and ambition, driving teams toward bold visions, performance and goals. The shadow side is aggressive dominance, risking alienation and a lack of empathy, potentially causing team burnout.
  • Feminine Yin = CARE : nurturing, empathy, fostering supportive environments and team cohesion. The shadow side is over-nurturing, lack of boundaries, decision-avoidance, and slow progress due to an over-reliance on consensus.

The Androgynous Organisation : Innovative, Structured, Impactful, Collaborative

An androgynous organisation has the capacity to combine :

  • Radical Innovation (feminine yang) : combines creative and life-serving purpose with tribal culture’s emphasis on community and spirituality (cf Burning Man, Mystics, Bauhaus).
  • Clear Structure (masculine yin) : integrates natural hierarchy (of competence and experience), clear roles, direction, boundaries and processes with the stability, efficiency, and consistency found of traditional and pre-modern hierarchical organizations (cf Church, Army, University).
  • Impact at Scale (masculine yang) : merges competitive, high-technology approaches for large-scale impact with market-driven dynamics of innovation, growth, and profitability (cf OpenAI, SpaceX, Uber).
  • Culture of Care (feminine yin) : blends collaborative, participative and decentralized environments together while ensuring psychological safety with regenerative & inclusive principles (NGOs, permaculture farms, traditional eco-villages).

Every organisation already embodies these 4 dimensions to a certain degree. The goal is to develop each dimension (in function of ones needs, culture & ecosystem) and learn to shift collectively between these 4 polarities. In this case, the capacity of the founder to embody these capacities at individual level is critical.

Androgynous Culture : Tribal, Hierarchy, Market, Eco

Examples of organisational cultures for each polarity.

An androgynous culture has the capacity to combine the best of these 4 cultures.

  1. Tribal (feminine yang) : community, creativity, spirituality.
  2. Hierarchy (masculine yin) : structure, stability, consistency.
  3. Market (masculine yang) : competition, innovation, growth, profit.
  4. Eco (feminine yin) : collaboration, sustainability, inclusion/diversity.

“The culture of an organisation grows in the shadow of its founder” — Jerry Colonna

From collective to individual : Androgynous Leadership

Inspired by the work of Peter Koenig ( Source Work) and Robert Moore (Archetypes)

The capacity to dance between the different roles & yin/yang poles in the right way and in the right context is an art. An art that a leader or founder must master if he/she wants to unlock the androgynous capacities of his/her team & organisation.

The 4 roles of “androgynous” (or emotionally agile) leaders :

  • Lover — Care ( feminine yin) : master of emotional intelligence, nurturing, care and team cohesion in service of collaboration. Listens actively and with compassion, the lover transforms sadness into motivation and conflicts into growth. Key emotion : Sadness.
  • Warrior — Action (masculine yang) : manifests the vision through decisive actions, performance assertiveness, courage, discipline, resilience and a commitment to excellence. Gets shit done. Protects what is sacred. Transform anger into focused action. Key emotion : Anger.
  • Shaman — Vision (feminine yang): connected to source & the invisible. Bridges digital innovation and ancient wisdom, intuitive pioneers guiding the tribe through complexity. Transforms fear into a catalyst for radical innovation and growth. Key emotion: Fear.
  • King — Order (masculine yin) : grounded, stable, present with strong foundations. Clear direction and boundaries, fostering a culture of trust. Cultivates joy and hope through stability & order, ensuring that members feel secure, valued, and motivated to contribute to the collective shared vision. Key emotion : Joy.

The King is the ultimate archetype, the most powerful one and the synthesis of the three others. It’s also the one connected to fatherhood.

T.A.O. Workshops

To experience these archetypes and develop androgynous leadership, the TAO workshop brings participants through a series of practical & embodied exercises. To learn more about embodied practices, tools & methodologies : >> T.A.O. | Practice

T.A.O. Media

To go deeper into the origins of this project & the theory of blindspots, collective shadow work, compassion/anger work and dialectics applied to the future of leadership & organisations … >> T.A.O. media

Thank you to all the people who supported / are supporting this research/action project! If you‘ve enjoyed reading this, please share it with your networks or show your encouragement by clapping (till 50 times!) to this article.

Timothée Brès — Catalysing generative futures through collective shadow work & underground dance music. Learn more at