Power isn’t a dirty word
Three things are needed to be able to wield power effectively.
But before I say what they are, did you flinch when you read the words ‘wield’ and ‘power’?
It can feel uncomfortable thinking about using power, or seeing our self as a leader. It has connotations of super sized egos running amok in organisations (or governments), or something that one needs to be aggressive and domineering to do. Sadly, power and leadership have become dirty words.
It’s time for a reframe. For too long the criteria has been narrow and limiting. We need to widen the scope on what it means to be a leader. There is no reason why each of us can’t step into leading powerfully on our own terms. This is important, because let’s face it, we’re all sick of sitting on the sidelines watching ‘leaders’ either not lead – or, lead us down a path that isn’t great.
The good news is you don’t need to channel your inner Ax from Billions or Cersei from Game of Thrones to wield power! You can lead authentically and thoughtfully, coming from your own unique expression and values.
So how do you wield power when you don’t see yourself that way?
There are three aspects: Name –> Claim –> Fame. When you bring these three things together you can lead and influence massively in your own unique way. No-one can do it like you!
Let’s break it down.
- Name is about naming what you want. You want to make an impact, and it takes power to do that. Name what power means to you, on your terms. What sort of leader can you be? Inclusive and open? Quirky, quiet and kind? Dynamic, forthright and ambitious? Name the type of leadership you want to embody. There is no one way. You first need to name it – leadership, power, impact – to be able to own it.
- Claim it as yours. Everyone has the ability to be a powerful agent for change. Stop making excuses and pretending this isn’t you. Look around you – your family life, work life, or living as a planetary citizen. There are things you want to do, and you need to lead and wield power to make that difference. Claiming power can be scary and exhilarating. It’s a statement of who you are intrinsically. It puts you on the mat and in the game. Claim power and leadership on your terms and don’t apologise for it!
- Fame is about being known as a person who makes stuff happen. (It is not about the ego and being all puffed out – that’s the old leadership model). When people think of someone who can lead, they think of you. You are known for showing up in your own unmistakeable leadership style. The more you are known for making a difference, the more difference you can make. Do people in your organisation know who you are and what you’re capable of?
For myself, when I got back from my first visit to Ethiopia in 1992, I realised there was work to do on the planet. And yet in my own mind I was a small person – what could I do? I was young and inexperienced. I didn’t have any networks. I looked at people who were successful and they seemed more naturally able to lead. I could have left it up to someone else, but I burned to make a difference and so I got over myself and named myself as a leader. I realised I needed to be the biggest possible Cathy to make any dent in ending hunger.
I then claimed leadership for myself. I didn’t wait to be anointed. Instead, I made it my business and mission to show up for the end of hunger. With this came responsibility. It’s easier to hide in the shadows and play small. It can be confronting. Claiming power, especially for women, means overcoming our mindsets and conditioning about what leadership looks like. So I felt the risk, but like most things, the greater risk was in doing nothing.
Fame for me was about being able to make the work of The Hunger Project, and the courageous women and men in villages, known. People knew who I was, what I stood for and what I could do. I used this to make the difference that the young woman from Perth in 1992 could never have dreamed of.
Because of my own unlikely leadership background, I’m passionate about empowering people to name, claim and find fame to lead effectively in things that really matter.
How do these three distinctions play out for you. Do you get stuck on any one of them? Let me know!