How Do You Feel About Power?

February 9, 2015

In her chapter in a new business book titled, Leading Women, Gloria Feldt, cofounder and president of a women’s leadership development company called Take the Lead, presents these questions on the subject of power:

“What is your relationship to power? On a scale of one to ten with one being ‘I don’t like the idea of power so I don’t seek it,’ ten being ‘I love having power’ and the middle range being ‘I’m not so comfortable with power, but I know I need to deal with it’, where do you place yourself?’

She goes on to discuss women’s discomfort with power and how it plays out in a myriad of responses and implications for leadership in business.

In my coaching experience, I find this uncomfortable relationship with power not limited to women, although a majority of women in business do struggle with power in one way or another. But I also see it in men whose family and cultural values centre on humility; in quiet, more introverted personalities; in some men (and women) whose early experiences with power, particularly authoritarian and abusive power, cause them to view all power in a negative light. It turns them off to positions of influence and power, even if they have the potential to lead in a different way. These potential leaders seem stuck in viewing power through a singular, outdated lens—a view they may never let go of or change, unless challenged to think about it anew.

My relationship to power and authority is that I’m all for it. People need somebody to watch over them. Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave.

REALLY, Arnold Schwarzenegger???

This matters to me as a coach, because I see many talented people with the ability to lead others, denying their potential for leadership because they don’t fit into their own predetermined definition of what power is and means, and then conclude that leadership is just ‘not for them’ based on the limited view they’re choosing to hold on to.

All power existing within organizations, groups, political parties, teams, even families—originates with the personal power of an individual or individuals influencing those with less of a penchant for power to follow their lead.  Asking ourselves about our relationship to power can help us think about its roots, re-examine its validity and to ensure that our relationship with it today is based on a current, rational understanding and motivation, rather than stagnant beliefs or experiences that are keeping us silent while we follow along, aimlessly or unaware.

As business moves into the future, it will need more of the types of leaders who may not be as comfortable with the kinds of power that have existed or been expressed in their past experience. The door is wide open for a new brand of leaders who love making a difference, investing energy into exceptional client relationships, solving problems with creativity and fostering collaboration—far more than desiring to wield power and control.

This song clip from the film Rocky reminds us of the personal power we can all choose to exercise. Personal power is foundational to confidently enjoying our own brand of power in leadership.

Happy Monday!

Warmest regards,

Ann

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