Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reclaiming Leadership

by Dana Theus (2011)
I am IN my power when I deal with WHAT IS
If business women aren’t broken, why does “the system” need to adjust?

I’ve been watching the statistics and conversations on gender pay inequality and women’s leadership development programs for a while. This week I noticed two thought provoking articles by Liz Bolshaw and Marcia Reynolds about equal pay and corporate training programs specifically. While I’m very thankful that people are tracking this information – and promoting the idea that women don’t need to be “fixed” – the more I read, the less inspired I am that the world will change as a result of this dialog.

Why? Because an undertone (unconscious, perhaps) of this conversation is an expectation that – even though “we’re” not broken – someone else is going to “fix it for us.” Reading many of the women’s corporate leadership discussions, I see us measuring our success and power in the very system that doesn’t play to our strengths – the same system that’s dangerously close to ruining the world for our grandkids. Sometimes I get the distinct sense that many corporate women are so fixated on what other people – men and “the system,” mostly – think of us, pay us and give us in the form of development and support, that we’re not spending this energy on simply BEING the powerful, successful and impactful individuals that we all know we ARE.

I know for a fact that many women (corporate and otherwise) ARE BEING in their power – regardless of what “the system” does or doesn’t do about it – but I would like to see our women’s leadership dialog reflect this more assertively. I appreciate the caring we show in tracking the corporate women’s place in “the system,” but there’s just so much more to the women’s leadership potential than this dialog lets us explore.

Real Power – Dealing with What Shows Up

Life is “unfair.” Women are more worthy than “the system” acknowledges. Every being on the planet deserves more recognition, praise and love than they get.

All true.

All irrelevant.

If we want change, it’s up to us – and I’m not talking about getting angry.

Judging success according to someone else’s scorecard is an abdication of our power to define what success really looks like to us. I’m speaking specifically of pay scales and corporate board membership here, but I’m also making a general point about how we can take back our power individually and culturally.

When we deal with what IS – putting aside judgment, attachment and fear – set our intention on what we want to BE and bring that into being, we establish the power that matters most – to ourselves, to the people around us and to the world. This is real power that can be exercised in the coffee shop, the boardroom and everywhere in between. I believe this is a power that women are naturally very skilled at – we’re wired this way – but we have to put aside other people’s definitions of power and success to let these skills shine.

Wielding Real Power

Leadership development and programs for women can be a force for good in the world, but let’s not rely on them – or on rebellion – to address what we see as inequities in “the system.” If we want to achieve and measure real success let’s demonstrate real leadership power – the power we were born with – and set our intention on that.

What can we DO?

As individuals, we can focus personally on defining this internal power we have to BE the change we want to bring to the world and mastering it for ourselves so we can mentor others in it. We can support each other – as women and human beings – in reflecting to each other when we see ourselves acting in power, reinforcing to ourselves what that real power looks like. I’m personally committing myself and my business to doing this and I invite everyone to join me in defining this internal power.

As a culture, we can focus on developing a new index of power and success – defined by women and useful for humanity. Do I know what that is? Nope. Maybe someone’s already doing it; the UK made noises last year about happiness metrics so maybe that’s an interesting place to start. I believe whatever this evaluation tool is, it includes more integrated measures of personal satisfaction, mastery and impact than the typical pay scale and executive membership metrics provide insight into. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we found out that we get paid less but are happier and make a bigger difference to sustainability and profitability than men? I have no idea if that could be an outcome, but I’d sure be interested in finding out what these kinds of evaluations would tell us. If anyone knows about such an index, please let me know. If there isn’t one, reply in comments with your ideas for what it could be. I’m happy to start the conversation here and see where it goes.

Ladies – We Have the Power

I believe in the power of the feminine. I believe it flows through us (men and women both, actually) and gives us all the strength we need to claim our place and power in the world – including and especially the business community. I’m personally committed to doing this and helping others do it as well. I welcome others to join me – in conversation, reflection and being IN power.

What about you? Are you waiting or are you being? How important are the stats for you? Do you let the stats get you down or go about your day being the best of who you are according to your own definition of success? Do you define power as your ability to be who you want to be or do you buy into the “other view” which is that power gives you status and control over others? Is any of this feminism or are we onto something else now? Be provocative. Speak your truth and let’s talk about it. Conversation, after all, is one of our strengths.

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