In Own Your Power

In May 2014, I had the opportunity to be part of a group of about 50 women leaders from across the U.S. who met in New York City for a salon dinner as part of the Forbes Women’s Summit. Among us we had Carly Fiorina (former CEO of Hewlett Packard, at one time the only female CEO in the Fortune 50), the newly announced CEO of the AARP, Jo Ann Jenkins, senior executives from IBM, Microsoft, Costco, McKinsey, CEO’s of technology start-ups as well as major non-profits. Here is how this group of high powered women redefined power.

We discussed what it means to lead. We discussed the toughest feedback we have ever gotten. We discussed how to create organization cultures where employees are engaged, innovative, and authentic conversations can happen.  It was an intimate dialogue among women most of whom had never met each other before. Perhaps the most compelling conversation that happened was about how each of us define power. You see, many women leaders have a love-hate relationship with power. We don’t want to be powerful because the traditional definition of power as “power over” leaves us cold.  Yet we also recognize that power is critical if we are to advance goals important to us.

Our ability to advance our goals lies in our desire to have power rather than shun it. So here are some of the words I heard tonight that made me want to have more power.  Power is:

  • The ability to inspire others to be their most authentic selves
  • Using your influence to make positive change happen
  • The ability to bring others on board with your ideas and vision
  • The opportunity to “choose” where we work, how we live, who we are
  • The ability to speak our truth
  • Being fully alive and engaged, loving what we do, the people we do it with
  • Leveraging our strengths and gifts
  •  Truly knowing who we are authentically as human beings
  • Proving the cynics and critics wrong and also admitting when you’re wrong and need help
  • Courage to be vulnerable and to be strong
  • Help others recognize and use their gifts
  • Trust in yourself
  • Fulfilling the responsibilities that come when you’re powerful
  • The ability to empower others
  •  The opportunity to create your own reality and choose your response to challenges
  • The ability to choose what will define you (what others say about you or who you choose to be)

How do you define power for yourself so it moves you forward more purposefully toward your goals?

A version of this post first appeared on my Forbes leadership blog.

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