In Books & Articles I Recommend

Imagine being 70 years old and deciding that you are just getting started – in creating a nonprofit organization determined to achieve parity for women in top leadership positions by 2025. At the ripe young age of 70, Gloria Feldt, author of the book “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power” decided she wasn’t done yet with making a difference and changing the world. I want to be like her when I grow up!

Gloria is former CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Her book delivers nine powerful tools for women to reframe how they see power and use it to reach their goals.  Here are the nine power tools. Which is standing in the way of you and your full power?

Nine Power Tools

Power Tool #1: Know your history and you can create the future of your choice.

Power tool #2: Define your own terms—first, before anyone else does. Whoever sets the terms of the debate usually wins it. By redefining power not as power-over but as power-to, we shift from a culture of oppression to a culture of positive intention to make things better for everyone.

Power Tool #3: Use What You’ve Got. What you need is almost always there, in your hands or within reach, if you can only see it and have the courage to use it.

Power Tool #4: Embrace Controversy. It gives you a platform. It nudges you to clarity. It is a teacher, a source of strength, and your friend, especially if you are trying to make change.

Power Tool #5: Carpe the Chaos. Change creates chaos. Today’s changing gender roles and economic turbulence may feel chaotic and confusing. But chaos means boundaries become more fluid. People open up to new ways of thinking. You can have unprecedented opportunities you might not otherwise have had. Carpe the chaos, for in chaos is opportunity.

Power Tool #6: Wear the shirt. Your gut-level commitment to what you decide to do with your one “wild and precious life” is a potent power tool. What’s happening and why? What’s your vision of what you think should happen? How can you make it happen? Go stand in your power and walk with intention to make it so.

Power Tool #7: Take Action. Create a Movement. Things don’t just happen. People make them happen in a systematic way. “Don’t agonize, organize!” as labor movement leaders often say.

Power Tool #8: Employ every medium. Use personal, social, and traditional media every step of the way. Use the medium of your own voice. And think of each of these power tools as a medium to be pressed into the service of your power-to.

Power Tool #9: Tell your story. Your story is your truth and your truth is your power. Others need and want to hear it as you want and need to hear theirs.

Who is Gloria Feldt?

As I talked with Gloria I discovered she has a powerful story of her own.  She describes herself as a practical activist. She started her “career” as an activist in the 1960’s marching for Civil Rights. She soon realized that it was the men leading the Civil Rights movement and decided that women’s rights were civil rights too.  Her planned career as a high school social studies teacher took a serendipitous turn when she found herself interviewing an executive for Planned Parenthood in West Texas for her last college class. She ended up being offered the departing executive director’s job. That led to a 30 year career with the organization where she served 9 years as the president and CEO of the national organization and helped pass legislation that got contraception covered by health insurance plans.

Implications for Women Leaders

As you read through each power tool, here’s an exercise I would recommend.  Read each tool and ask yourself:

  • How am I leveraging this power tool to reach my goals?
  • Which power tools are my strongest and how do I continue to leverage them?
  • What are situations where I hold myself back from fully embracing this power tool?
  • Who do I know who is really good at the tool that is a challenge for me? How can I learn from them?

This would be a great exercise if you’d like to discuss it in your mentoring circle too.

If you’d like to know more about the Power Tools, please visit her personal website at Also for upcoming Leadership Power Tools webinars, check out her new organization, Take The Lead.

If this resonated for you, please comment, subscribe and share with others.

Additional Information

Do you want to be Perfect or Powerful?

Saying No with Power and Grace

Women & Power – Do we Get It

Ten Ways to Own Your Power

Want Power? Dump Your Story

Showing 2 comments
  • Karin Hurt

    These are all fantastic ideas, I’ve read them a few times to try to determine which ones I agreed with the most. I really like the idea of setting the terms of the debate… so vital, women need to do more of that. Also, I believe so strongly in telling and leveraging our stories. Above all, take action.

    • Henna

      Thanks for joining the conversation Karin. I agree they are all great ways for us to embrace our power.

      My favorite one is #6 – “Wear the Shirt” – for me making the commitment – what I want to do with my “wild and precious life” has changed everything! My biggest challenge? #4 – Embrace Controversy…working on that one!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Start typing and press Enter to search