My Perspective/My Journey
Answer these questions . . . What is power? Who has it? Are you born with it? Is it acquired? Is it earned? Is granted? Is it taken? Is it taken for granted? Do you exercise yours? Do you play it up or play it down? Do you let others define your power?
I am amazed. A few weeks ago a good friend told me that I have a tremendous amount of power that I don’t use. . . . I was flattered, intrigued and thoughtful all at once – to be told I have this quality that I’m not leveraging. That is like being told you have the secret to longevity, but you’re squandering it. O.K. that is an extreme example, but you get the point. My friend actually provided an informal assessment stating that when I start to use my power I would skew off the charts (I took this as a positive). However, I’m doubly amazed because shortly after this discussion, I was also told that I have a powerful presence by an executive. However, this person used the words “perceived as intimating” in conjunction with the word powerful (I heard “intimidating to others who are not like you). This individual also said that I was at least five years ahead of everyone else and I confess, also accused me of extreme innovation and doing fabulous work . . . Of course what I heard was the negative connotations of power and intimidation. BTW that was the day my FB status was listed as “So hot, I’m breathing fire and have steam coming out of my ears”.
Tell me what do you do with the second assessment? I thought about it, I analyzed it and reflected back 10 years prior when I was in an influential human resources position. A senior executive in my department all but cursed me out over something minor ~ she criticized my ability, listening skills, leadership and everything else. Upset is an understatement – for a high achieving, over thinking, overcommitted career woman to be so undeservedly criticized. I told a family member about the incident and he said “Sherry, if they treat you that way, what chance does anyone else have?” That was a defining moment and perhaps the moment that I realized a small measure of my power . . . of course I went back and “handled” the situation and trust me by doing so, I achieved a new level of respect. I share these stories, not because I have reached nirvana (far from it), but because so many of us let the criticism of others define our power and accept it when someone says . . . “Leroy is very articulate” or “people are intimidated by Shaniqua” or “Julio is very overly confident (a.k.a. arrogant)” or “Kuong is outspoken”. Excuse me – the male majority is embraced because of his articulation, confidence and willingness to say what is on his mind. So why do others get flack for the same qualities that are revered in the male majority? Well . . . dare I say it . . . Power. . .
I won’t delve into a history lesson regarding who has traditionally held power, nor will I explore the shifting demographic trends which are influencing the current shift in the balance of power. I trust you know this history or will take the opportunity to explore it. In my view, the issue today is that the new order is embracing power and is not allowing themselves to be defined by “old” ways of thinking and being. The old order IS intimidated.
I was in a seminar last week and the speaker, my good friend John Hughes said “power is the ability to impact change”. Hmmm . . . that is a powerful statement. When defined this way, I find no insult in the earlier assessment by the first executive. Wouldn’t you rather be ahead five years versus five years behind? Wouldn’t you rather be viewed as powerful versus powerless? I’ll take innovative any day baby!
- Power : possession of control, authority, or influence over others
- Power is the time rate at which work is done or energy is transferred. In calculus terms, power is the derivative of work with respect to time.
Personally, I like the 2nd definition which is the definition I pulled from the physics section of about.com. “Energy”, “Work”, and “Time” – everyone can relate to these words. Think and visualize ~ Power ~ the media, Obama, Wall Street, Oprah, the atomic bomb, Sojourner Truth, Hillary, a Formula One race car, Wyclef, Hitler, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., the recording industry . . . POWER. I know someone will challenge the recording industry – but the industry is influencing culture and how urban youth view themselves – not in a positive way . . . POWER.
The next question – How does the average person leverage power? Honestly, I’m trying to figure that one out. While I explore “my” power source, I challenge you to look at yours . . . we all have power within our sphere of influence, right? My unscientific take-a-way after contemplating this topic is a list of principles that work for me and others within my circle. I encourage you to try a few and see what happens.
The power of being positive
The power of being different
The power of ideas and innovation
The power of networking
The power of real friends and family (key word “real”)
The power of knowing your limits but continuing to challenge them
The power of continually getting better
The power of not being afraid to speak your mind
The power of listening to what hasn’t been said
The power of observation
The power of self promotion
The power of social networking
The power of networking
The power of faith
The power of giving back (or just giving)
The power of mentoring
The power of a helping hand
The power of caring
The power of living life in an authentic manner . . .
Feel free to add to these and have a powerful day!
All Best – SS
This article was originally published in The Soul Response. Check out http://thesoulresponse.com/