Women Leadership and Relationship To Power

I often hear clients saying that they don’t like power. Some of them associate power to something negative that they don’t want in their life. This mindset puts them in a tight position at work that limits their growth. Power is undeniable, it is part of work. You need the power to influence people, the power to lead, the power of trust and respect, the power of the network, the power of skills and ability, the power of money.

Some Relationships to Power

Maria was pondering whether or not she should accept her promotion as VP. She didn’t feel she had all it takes to succeed. She approached the negotiation with a fragile mindset; she was not ready to ask for a valuable raise because of her concerns. What came out of our coaching sessions is an old fear of power. Power meant destruction in her mind and she refused to destroy anyone. She values collaboration and support as much as the competition. We worked on her beliefs and in the end, she understood that being VP means the ability to influence and leverage, two positive attributes of power. She could accept the value of power and reduce the impact of her negative belief. In the end, she accepted the job and negotiated a decent salary raise.

Michelle was thinking to change career. She was a successful account manager who wanted to become a coach. She was afraid to make the move because of a weak network. So she thought. She was afraid to leverage the power that lied in her network already. We worked together to help her singularise the key people that she had to influence. She also learned to connect with decision makers from all sectors. She took 6 months of continuous networking to feel comfortable with the quality of her network. When she switched, she had 6 signed contracted and 6 months of paid missions.

Common Fears About Power

Women show a love-hate relationship to power. They understand its importance but they fear the consequences, the impact. It can stem from religious concerns where a woman has to obey and be submissive. It is hard then to assume powerful roles, even when qualified. Some iconic images of women show them as submissive. It is implied from her. It takes much more energy to break free and be exposed as different. Furthermore, there is a gender bias for powerful women who are nicknamed “bitches” because they exercise their rightful power. It is a double bind.

Some fears are rooted in a lack of preparation to competition. Boys are competitive by nature, playing games with strategies from an early age. Girls are connecting; they are friends playing together at the same game. They don’t learn to be competitive. They can be even shocked when a girl is competitive; it is as if she broke the sister’s code.

Some women are afraid of bragging. The mere fact of saying that talking about your success is bragging reveals the bias. Sharing your success is important for others to understand your true value and what you do. It is necessary for any career path to voice out your achievements, so that key decision makers have you in mind for future promotion. Men are quite natural at it. I call it the locker room talk when they review the sequence of a game by sharing their individual achievements.

Women are afraid to ask. They don’t want to disturb or impose. The problem with that mindset is that they don’t put their foot in the door. If you don’t ask, you don’t leverage the power of your network. You pedal all alone. You end up being tired and reaching lower goals. You can ask for referrals, help, advice, contact, promotion, raise… Once a woman asks, there is a hidden contract that binds her with the recipient and she feels in debt. She can’t think of something else and loses the focus. The right thing is to be clear about the quid pro quo so that you can be at peace.

What about control. The devil of power’s attributes. Having control is difficult because you are exposed and you think you can’t mess it up. Men don’t even think twice. They don’t mind if they are wrong. They just use power to recover. Power in itself is feeding their self-esteem. Women are scrupulous. They take the function of role model to heart and falsely believe that people expect perfection. People only expect them to be role models, and being an example is also failing with grace.

The Power of Power

Once you are at peace with the power of power, you can be your best self and you can reach higher goals. One way to help women break the glass ceiling is to help them embrace the power of power. Of course, bias is in the way too, but a negative mindset about power is an internal block that can easily be lifted. The result is more freedom, range, and eventually more achievements. And a happy woman has an impact on so many lives that it is worth the effort to help her get there.

Sara Bigwood

Collaboration Builder and Leadership Development Coach