Women are leading all over the world in all kinds of ways. No matter how you lead, call on your inner power to succeed. – InPower Editors
Women leaders are everywhere. You don’t need to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation, have earned millions of dollars, or be in Washington DC to be a leader.
There are women leaders on your teams – from directors to managers to team leads. Some women are leading by initiating change in an organization without that official leadership title. There may be women in your local and state governments who are initiating community change by designing policies. Women around the world are starting businesses, leading villages and cities, and in some cases, countries. Women lead by volunteering in the community, often influencing others to think differently about situations and issues.
You may be one of these women leading change through action and influence.
However with more women leaders, we need more role models and mentors. Women leaders don’t get enough attention. And we don’t get enough mentorship and advice as to what it means to be a good leader and embrace power. We know what it means for a man to lead, but what does it mean for a woman? How is it similar or different?
Leading Women – 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life by Nancy D. O’Reilly approaches this leadership question by exploring how women embrace power from 3 perspectives:
- External environments – how to be perceived as powerful by others
- Internal environments – how to embrace your own power
- Connections within the community – how to build leadership and strengthen power in other women through education and policy
While reading the section about external environment, I learned how people perceive power and act around powerful people. Much of the advice for women to embrace power centers around communication techniques that can help you capture the attention of colleagues and peers, have them feel your presence, and allow you to be heard. Some examples include:
- Stop people from interrupting you
- Build credibility and get credit for your contributions – and stop letting others get that acknowledgement
- Improve your presence at the podium and connect with an audience
- Accept praise and take the heat gracefully yet powerfully
- Become a better leader by assuming risk and receiving constructive feedback
Most importantly in this section, I gained insights about how I can embrace my femininity to be a better leader as a better communicator, networker, and connector, and learned how these skills are changing the perception of leadership in the world. Women who embrace their femininity are influencing others and being perceived to be more powerful than they realize.
But you can only be perceived as powerful if you believe in your own power. This leads to the next section about internal environments. There were some pieces in this section that resonated with me very deeply, particularly the sections about personal story telling and understanding how your beliefs define who you are. Until you redefine your own personal story to support your power, you can’t really start to believe that you have power. And it’s only possible to tap into that power when you reach deep into yourself, acknowledge who you are, and experience your passion.
The collection of pieces in internal environments are organized to present this self-exploration as a process – starting with love (Do you need a reason to Love? by Marci Shimoff) and culminating with making time for you (the greatest expression of love) and living your passion (Ignite your love and connect for a better world, by the author of the book, Nancy D. O’Reilly). It is only when you are truly you – and have a positive self-narrative – that you can embrace, experience, and exhibit your real power.
That last piece leads us to the next section – how we need to work together so we can all experience power and be perceived as equals to men in our own lives. Much of this empowerment begins with education about power through money, rights, choices and opportunities to have more control over your own life. It raises the question, how do we define feminism, and do we go beyond the traditional definition to inspire personal change? This education can’t start too soon (young girls can benefit learning about how to make their own choices and own their lives) or be limited geographically. One piece specifically highlights how role models and education are helping African women discover their voices and lead, transcending challenges such as troubled economies, war and military conflict, or abuse to name a few.
This collection of pieces ends by encouraging women to look beyond their own individual achievements to take larger community action to create a legacy that impacts women everywhere.
My favorite piece in this section was written by an alumna and featured my alma mater, Simmons College (Information: The Best Form of Philanthrophy, by Shirley Osborne). Simmons was established by entrepreneur, John Simmons. He realized that women could contribute more to society and themselves, but to do that successfully, they needed more information and education. He started offering night classes to women in his factories, and after he died, he left an endowment to create Simmons College. A quote from that piece that resonated with me and provides a great summary for the entire book:
It is up to women, then, as we advance in the power structures and economic institutions of the world, no matter how we acquire that advancement, to reach back, reach down, reach out, and embrace other women, pull them in, give them a hand up.
— Information: The Best Form of Philanthrophy, by Shirley Osborne
We are all leaders today in some capacity in our work and our lives. And the pieces in this book remind us that we women are leaders of our own lives and can make choices to embrace our power and lead others to change.