Power, Influence and Structural Change

I’ve been thinking a lot about Power lately. I had a friend tell me that one of the reasons he was drawn to me was because he perceived me as “powerful”. This caught me off guard. I don’t think of myself as powerful, in the traditional sense, as much as “influential”. My purpose in this world is to help leaders Cultivate Insight and Influence Change and so I find it on my heart to acknowledge the monumental shift this country experienced with a simple, but powerful, oath:

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me God

With the transfer of power to the new administration last Wednesday, we formally ended 4 years of dysfunctional “Power Over” leadership. “Power Over” leadership is the familiar, patriarchal approach which is hallmarked by fear and control, making more enemies than friends. It is debilitating, and creates disconnection and division.

With so much healing to do, we have no choice but to practice a different approach to power and influence – as a people and a nation. Thankfully, we have two very powerful choices at our disposal: “Power With” and “Power To”.

The “Power With” and “Power To” leadership model is borne of collaboration and self-authorship. It invites people, as they are, into the narrative to co-create a shared future. These models know power isn’t finite, it is infinite, and placing the power squarely with the people makes real change possible. It is the place where knowledge truly becomes power. Currency. The more we know, the more access we have – to opportunity, to make a difference, to power.

Knowledge is power.

In organizations, real “Power With” and “Power To” energy is generated through relationships. Building and nurturing relationships should take priority over tactical outcomes. Why? Because relationships are the oil in the machine – without it, everything works harder to operate. And just like machines need regular maintenance, so do our relationships.

So how do we build and nurture relationships in our personal and professional lives? We leverage curiosity and gratitude. Brené Brown teaches that leaders need to have the desire to get it right, not be right.

What do we gain when we move from certainty to curiosity? Well, we gain a new appreciation that we don’t have all the answers – and we don’t need to. Holding space for discovery and creating new awareness is a form of personal agency. When you understand the experience of another, you can better understand how you/they are influencing the situation. Better understanding leads to more impact and deeper connection.

The Inauguration was a mosaic of representation and inclusion. The makeup of President Biden’s cabinet is the most diverse in the history of the United States with many firsts, the least of which is the first woman, first Black, and first South Asian Vice President. It took 244 years to arrive here; this moment must not pass without acknowledgement. We have female, BIPOC, and non-binary representation in the highest offices of the land. That is real structural change.

The most powerful way initiate significant social change is to start a simple conversation. When people discover that they share a common concern, change begins. Even though 2020 was chock full of despair, I’m hopeful and inspired by what’s possible given the turning of the tide. Only time will tell.

Maybe, in the end, power is a mindset. Being able to articulate your viewpoint from a place grounded confidence, while choosing to listen to differing viewpoints with curiosity and generosity is power. Ever so much more to learn from each other.

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished…

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man. And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us but what stands before us.” ~Amanda Gorman

Tell Me: What is your relationship to power? Where and how are you co-creating brave new endings? How are you enabling conditions in your life to lean into curiosity and generosity as you listen to those you disagree with?

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