Redefining “Power”

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I couldn’t be more thrilled about the opportunity over today and tomorrow to be part of the WP Carey School of Business Executive Education’s Women’s Leadership Roundtable. The objective of the two-day event is to help women discover their best leadership assets.

There was tremendous value in today’s sessions, facilitated by Dr. Suzanne Peterson, professor of management and faculty director of WP Carey Executive Education and Gloria Feldt, president and co-founder of Take the Lead, an organization committed to enabling women to embrace their power and lead without limits.

Dr. Peterson led the roundtable, speaking on “The Mystique of Executive Maturity: What Your Leadership Style is Really Communicating about You.” She discussed Persuasive Communication Cues that every woman leader should pay attention to.  But, it is clear that these are relevant regardless of gender. For e.g. hedges and qualifiers. Especially in email, she recommended dismissing phrases like “I would like to” and “I am just.” Start using email 20% less, she said, and instead amp up your relational skills by reaching out by phone, or better yet in person. Earlier this week, I tweeted this piece by Ragan – “It’s time to stop using ‘just’ in your writing and speaking.” I’m proud to say that in all my email communication this week, I took special care to avoid that four letter word.

Peterson also spoke about the importance of paying attention to other cues such as body language, posture, dress, brevity, volume and movement while talking, and eye contact in establishing your leadership style. She left participants with three main takeaways:

  1. Be willing to flex your authentic leadership style between powerful and approachable (or attractive). Allow context to determine which is appropriate for a given time.
  2. Be powerful enough to be listened to, but attractive enough that people want to follow you.
  3. Have a goal for every situation. Ask yourself what are you trying to achieve and how do you want to be seen? Is your style powerful enough to be listened to?
Gloria Feldt’s presentation focused on “Women, Power, and Authentic Leadership.” She discussed how to redefine “power” and employ it to lead authentically. Feldt really provoked me to consider the meaning that I’d previously ascribed to power. Pardon the pun, but I found it quite empowering to be able to change my mindset from the negative connotation of Power as “POWER OVER…” to “POWER TO…”

She shared 9 Power Tools that I highly recommend every woman pay attention to including in their leadership toolkits.

  1. Know your history and you can create the future of your choice.
  2. Define your own terms before someone else defines you.
  3. Use what you’ve got. What you need is there. The keys are in your hand. Do you have the wisdom to see it and the courage to do it? You don’t need to have formal power to have the power to make a change.
  4. Embrace controversy. Use it constructively to think positive, seize the moment, take the lead, use different eyes, see potential.
  5. Carpe the chaos. Leverage chaotic moments to create new ways of thinking.
  6. Wear the shirt of your convictions. What’s on your shirt? Wear your passion.
  7. Create a movement by unleashing sister courage: be a sister by reaching out to someone who needs help and ask for help when you need it; have courage to talk about issues; make a plan for effecting change.
  8. Employ every medium to make your voice and message heard.
  9. Tell your story. Stories are our power and our truth. People learn through stories. Your story is helpful to others. Be willing to share it.

You can read more in Feldt’s bestseller No Excuses.  And stay tuned for tomorrow’s recap.


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