If I told you to picture in your mind a powerful leader. Who comes to your mind first. A man? Or a woman?
If I told you to picture a powerful female leader in your mind. What kind of energy are you feeling from her?
I think there needs to be a shift in the way we think about power and leadership, regardless of gender. But since I am a young female – here’s power and leadership from my perspective.
‘‘When I came out of my mother’s womb I screamed Girl Power’’ – Geri Halliwell aka Ginger Spice, 1997.
Last week, the Spice Girls announced they were going on tour. The tickets sold out in minutes. Generations country-wide evidently remember how much fun life was when they were at their peak – the dance routines, throwing peace signs in the air and shouting Girl Power! (with peace sign).
When I was 4, I had one of those chunky Fisher-Price tape recorder toys with the big buttons and little microphone attached to sing into. I would spend most waking hours putting my Spice Girls tape in there, pressing the fat green play button and pretending I was in the band. Little did I know that the lyrics I was singing along to were at best about female empowerment way ahead of their time, and at worst – a bit too saucy for my innocent ears to even know what they meant.
And they empowered me. The word ‘power’ wasn’t about being better than anyone else or being feared – it was all shouted with a smile, a clenched arm in the air a la Rosie the Riveter, and another peace sign. ‘Girl Power’ was about spreading positivity, being who you are, and sticking together!
And that’s how power should be viewed.
Unlearning power and learning empowerment.
We need to unlearn those old age views of power and leadership. When you Google ‘powerful people’ it just comes up with a list of very rich people and nothing much else – but – the way I see some of the world changing around me (and I say some because I do not want to speak in general here – I know a lot more needs to be done for girls around the globe) has nothing to do with money. It is through this shift of power as empowerment. And obviously the more of us who make this shift, the better our worlds will be.
Within us all, we have a well of power. A well of positive energy that, as leaders, we need to tap into as those who are responsible for influencing and motivating others.
For leaders in most organisations it is our responsibility to motivate others to contribute to the goals and successes of their team and organisation.
‘Goals’ and ‘success’ are words so loaded with being better, being the best, to win, to have more money than anyone else.
That word ‘success’ should not just be defined by how much more you have than others or how much power you have over others. It should be defined as how much of your power you give to others. We should use our positive power to motivate people to take on whatever it is in their life that defines success for them. As leaders we have this choice. To give people our energy or drain our people’s energy.
And the energy I mean is that well of positive energy within us that I referred to before. Stripping back any corporate language, to the very essence of this – we do have the responsibility to have a positive influence on those around us.
And it doesn’t take much.
The Maharishi Effect
Over the last few years, there have been numerous studies on something called ‘The Maharishi Effect’. The studies show the impact that a few meditators in a room focusing on their positive energy has on their surroundings. I urge you to investigate these studies for yourself to see – but the correlation between these positive gatherings and the significant decrease in crime rates post ‘Maharishi session’ was something that scientists could not ignore.
Now, whilst you may view this as new age nonsense, I do not think it all too wild to say that to make positive impact, you need to start within. If our responsibility as leaders accounts for anything, it is just this; harness your power from a place of positivity, of good, and of love. If you can manage this, the Maharishi Effect might just happen in your life, your organisation, in those around you.
And when asked to picture their leader in their mind, your colleagues will feel positivity energy – giving them the power to do both good, and good work. No good really comes from an organisation operating from a place of fear.
I end with a passage from a book that a leader of mine – who I am very thankful for, see the Maharishi Effect operating here, from him to me, from me to you – urged me to read:
‘’There is only one way to lead, and that is by being in front and leading by example. When we act positively on solving problems instead of ignoring them or trying to find a way around them, we are further along the pathway to sustainability. Every time we’ve elected to do the right thing, it has turned out to be more profitable’’ – Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia.
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