January 27, 2021

Are You Leading with Power Over or Power With?

Today I want to talk about what kind of leader are you? Are you a leader that leads with “power over” or “power with, to, and within?” As some of you know, I’m a huge Brené Brown enthusiast, fan, and follower. I listen to both of her podcasts released in 2020. One is called “Unlocking us” and the other is called “Dare to Lead” after her book that came out after her book, which i’m a huge fan of and highly recommend for any leader.

I was just listening to her podcast with Joe Biden who was recently inaugurated. The conversation was all about power over or by leading by power with. Power over is sort of like a traditional, historical concept of power. It encompasses the idea that power is finite, that the only way to lead others is to tell others what to do and have other serve you. It’s leading from a place of blame, shame, and discomfort. Whereas power within is leading from empathy. Leading with the recognition that power is infinite. That the more power and empowerment we do to others makes us better leaders. Power with to within also means that you are framing rights and freedoms as privileges that are connected to responsibility to the larger community or organization, aka culture.

As I’ve been reflecting on this, there are so many examples we can look at in government organizations, corporations, as well as within a family structure. The historical nature has been power over, if you’re the boss, you have the right to lead from power over. To tell others around you what to do, how to do it, and why with no recognition that we should have a conversation about what we’re doing.

With my children, I am empowering them to be independent and challenge me if they think i’ve done something wrong. I as a leader should be able to apologize if I’ve done something wrong.

Having power with, to, and within an organization leads to a much stronger organizational culture. It leads to more accountability, trust, and empathy. I am so thankful to Brené Brown for her 10 years of research and all of her writing speaking on this subject.

Which leads me to the question: How can I be a better leader? How can I be a better parent? I implore all of you to take a look at how you’re leading. Are you leading by “power over” or “power with, to, and within.”

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