Having extensive experience with conducting leadership development programmes for women, I have seen from close quarters the powerlessness of women in the corporate world. Fortunately, I have also witnessed several of them rise and claim their power. The reason I can help them is that personally, I have experienced powerlessness as a woman despite being smart, educated, and capable. I have worked consistently and still do so to remain in a state of power.
Many women, deep down, are scared of power. They have been conditioned to prioritise relationships and family well-being over everything else. Values of being a good mother, wife, and daughter have been quite heavily and explicitly ingrained. It is not easy to think of becoming the figurehead of a large organisation without expecting to ruffle some feathers. The subconscious fears women hold associated with power are the fear of success, conflict, upsetting others, and the fear of not belonging. This fear makes them either give away their power or not claim what is rightfully theirs.
The unspoken inner whispering goes something like: ‘I don't want to step on toes; I don’t want my empathy to get affected by power; I don’t want to be perceived as arrogant.’
One must know that fear is not real. It is just a deterrent to prevent you from taking steps and actions towards things you truly want.
There are certain manifestations of female power that don't seem to violate society’s sense of norms: those linked to sex or beauty—the femme fatale that starts wars, or the most desirable, which is wielding power in the service of others. No one flinches at a mother storming into the school to demand a new lunch menu for her child’s benefit, or a human resources lady looking out for her employees. Isn’t it unfair to be denied the right to be selfish?
Power is a beautiful feeling. Power is many things such as confidence, control, and clarity. When one experiences power not in relationship to anyone else but within them, it is an ethereal experience. This inner experience of power spills over into outward successes.
Women leaders to move forward ‘must’ improve their relationship with power through questioning: what it means to them? Which beliefs and values clash in their ability to be in a position of power? Or what are they giving away by not owning it?
They have to perceive power as pure positivity; this will let them tap into their full potential. Such women can set healthy boundaries. To this end, women must stop behaving differently in some situations such as the following:
● Feeling virtuous for not hurting others; for example, picking up the slack for a team member’s mistakes.
● Giving away credit or limelight which belongs to them, to ‘keep the peace’.
● Hesitating from disagreeing with people or confronting them.
I often work with my clients using archetypes. Archetypes are the work of psychologist Carl Jung. An archetype is a characteristic or persona that is contained in the unconscious. It is part of the experience of all humans. For example, one can clearly relate to the archetypes of a mother, lover, wise woman, and a queen in a woman. Archetypes are present and inherent in each one of us, but we may not always recognize them. Some are specific to certain individuals, and others are universal. History, culture, and personal context shape these representations and give them relevance and specific content.
I have observed that women leaders are often trying to become the archetype of a king instead of a queen as they climb up the ladder. It might be because the role models have been mainly men, or because men primarily design the corporate world, the natural way seems to be to become a king.
However, I encourage women to embody and explore the queen archetype instead, and that causes a tremendous shift in their perception of power.
I often ask them what kind of queen they see themselves as, and I get answers from Rani Lakshmi Bai to Cleopatra to Queen Elizabeth. The kind of queen that resonates with you tells a lot about the leadership style and approach that would work the best for that lady to reach the top.
The way a queen looks at authority, responsibility, and influence is different from the way a king views it, isn't it? When you discover how to step into your power, you become more emotionally mature, stronger, independent, balanced, and a better leader.
Views are personal. The author is the founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners a global leadership development company based in Bengaluru. She is a speaker, a leadership development specialist, an ICF Certified Executive Coach [MCC], and author of the book, ‘Checkmate Office Politics’.