The Job Coaches: Embrace power, build alliances to get results

Join Jane this Saturday to learn more about
Power, persuasion and influence!

Power. The very word sends shudders down the spine of many women. It shouldn’t. Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher, in his book, “Leviathan,” defined power as one’s “present means to obtain some future apparent good.” There’s only upside to that definition.

Power derives a negative connotation when one thinks about having power over someone or something — using control, force and/or threats to drive behaviors and outcomes. Thinking about power as a coercive force is an unpleasant thought and experience regardless of one’s gender.

However, if you think of having power with something or someone to produce constructive win-win outcomes, then that’s an entirely different mind-set and approach that comes naturally to most women.

As Helen E. Fisher observes in “The Natural Leadership Talents of Women,” “Men tend to cast themselves within hierarchies and view power as rank and status; women, on the other hand, form cliques and regard power as an egalitarian network of supportive connections.”

Power with is multifaceted and flows from many sources: what you know, what abilities you have, what level of respect you command and your charisma.

Consider the findings of Diane Jacobs, principal of The Talent Advisors, a company that advises corporate executives, who writes, “Women pursue power by producing results, forming collaborative relationships and building alliance networks.” Relationships and results are power with outcomes that women can and should embrace.

Let’s take a look at several sources of power to understand what they are as well as how you can adopt behaviors within that power realm to broaden your sphere of influence.

Personal or charisma power is based on your individual distinguishing characteristics. Think about the things that you do and what you are: your work ethic, integrity, character and interpersonal communication style. Being sincere in your approach to your work and interacting with your colleagues is essential for building trust, a key element for personal power.

Regularly recognizing and rewarding others (giving without thoughts of getting) boost your personal power as well. Be known for your willingness to work hard and work smart.

Understand and connect with your personal views, then assert them sincerely, diplomatically and without apology.

As Marian Ruderman and Patricia Ohlott note in “Standing at the Crossroads: Next Steps for High-Achieving Women,” “A key component of acting authentically is understanding what you care about most, developing self-awareness of your values and priorities, your likes and dislikes.”

Referent power is relationship-based. It stems from your ability to build loyalty and respect by attracting others as well from possessing qualities that others admire and would like to have.

To grow your referent power, be supportive, keep your promises, encourage participation through collaboration and influence, create relationships and build alliances.

Linda Tarr-Whelan, author of “Women Lead the Way” and a keynote speaker at 2010’s Women in Business Conference, offers some excellent advice, “Remember: relationships are primary; all else is secondary. Coalitions that come together because of a single common interest … are actually best held together by personal relationships.”

Expertise power is rooted in your knowledge, skills and achievements. When people view you as an expert, you have credibility and your advice is viewed as sound and reliable.

Staying current in your field and building additional competencies are two ways to increase your influence and expertise power.

Involve others in your work so their skills and knowledge are enhanced as well. Share information freely and communicate what you know. Work to maintain a credible reputation as a consistent source of relevant and timely information.

Power with is a concept to be embraced, not avoided.

Welcome it, then work to develop your personal, referent and expertise power bases so women can create the kind of world described by Matthew Arnold, English poet and cultural critic, “If ever the world sees a time when women shall come together purely and simply for the benefit and good of mankind, it will be a power such as the world has never seen.”

I look forward to seeing you there!

Jane Perdue is CEO of Braithwaite Innovation Group. The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, February 12, 2010.


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