As an alumnae of Leadership Texas, I recently attended the 30th anniversary celebration of this premier leadership organization. We were fortunate to hear an amazing keynote address by Patricia Sellers, the Editor at Large of Fortune. In 1998, Patricia was the individual responsible for spearheading and ultimately launching “The 50 Most Powerful Women” series for Fortune. Thus, she certainly has a well-established point of view of what enables, creates, and ultimately manifests POWER – independent of gender. I found her keynote interesting, compelling, and yet – to be brutally honest – not terribly revolutionary in content. However, what did make it noteworthy was her manner in telling her story and the examples of powerhouse women and men to drive home her point.
Her 5 tips on building a position of power are denoted below with my own commentary and viewpoint. These points are absolutely relevant to every single professional – male or female. I have deliberately listed these as soundbites as I believe we remember more clearly in bite-size nuggets.
1. Lean in. Growth is more important than level, title, or salary. Take risks. Don’t make hard, fast decisions until you are ready. Yet, don’t hold back – GO FOR IT by leaning forward, not backward. Fear can paralyze or be a catalyst…your choice.
2. Embrace discomfort. Be brave. Dig deep within your own reservoir. She quoted Ginny Rometty, the CEO of IBM, relative to her own perspective on leadership: “Growth and comfort do not coexist.” Thus, we have to be willing to be first, be lonely, and be a pioneer – if we want to take leadership to a new level.
3. Get on the jungle gym. Success is seldom achieved by climbing a direct, straight-up ladder. Research the powerful leaders you most respect. From my own list, I found that most have achieved success – which, by they way, money was NOT my sole metric – by swinging for the fences. These fences are seen and sought through the lenses of our passions. Look around – use peripheral vision to explore options. Often what drives the intensity in our work and life is not what is right in front of us. AND, one last note relative to navigating your career, Sheryl Sandburg, CEO of Facebook, has been quoted, “Don’t leave before you leave.” In other words, if you “check out” then truly check out. Do not fill the seat just to keep a title or position – that will bite you in the end.
4. Follow the talent and the opportunity to contribute. I could not agree with this point more voraciously. I am a believer that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” So, if there is growth – EVERYONE benefits. Opportunities will present themselves, and if you are diligent and focused, careers take care of themselves.
5. Rethink the definition of Power. Oprah defines Power as the ability to Impact with Purpose. I love and embrace that definition fully. Power is not JUST positional authority, span of control, title, rank, salary, or net worth. YES, we all know individuals who have all those trappings and have power, too! After all, let’s face it, Patricia even stated on the front end of her speech a few of the key attributes by which they choose the ‘power list’ for Fortune; and they include: size/growth/status of company, health of business/career, arc of a person’s career, how quickly they moved up, where they are and where they are going, and finally their contribution and impact socially and culturally. However, what Patricia (and I) offer is that often the most powerful individuals may never achieve exponential monetary reward or even desire it. Yet, their power is undeniable because of the INFLUENCE and IMPACT they make on the world.
What is your definition of Power? What has been your experience with powerful individuals? What choices have you made in your life/career which were not direct steps up the ladder, yet propelled your career in a way you never imagined?
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