Do you seek to achieve professional power in your career? Statistics show that women with power are far more capable of achieving their professional goals and making a significant difference in their life and the lives of others.
Striving to achieve professional power by seeking opportunities and related roles with more influence and impact can be very rewarding. The “Women Want Five Things” executive summary written by The Center for Talent and Innovation’s Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Melinda Marshall, illustrates that women in leadership positions have more impact and influence to push energy and activities toward things that matter. In fact, their finding may actually surprise you:
Women start their careers hungry to attain a powerful job, but lose their appetite as they age. Even for women without children, and those who are breadwinners, power
loses its luster for the 35 to 50 age group. Women do not understand that power can give them what they want.
They perceive the burdens of leadership outweighing the benefits when in fact power, our data reveals, is what allows women to thrive and flourish. In all geographies,
women with power enjoy the ability to reach for meaning and purpose, to empower others, and be empowered far more than women without power expect. In the U.S. and UK, women with power are able to flourish far more than women without power expect.
What I have learned throughout my career is that people don’t fall into great positions, roles or opportunities. These opportunities come after you have stretched yourself to access the next level of your courage, risk-taking, perseverance and willingness to manifest what you desire. These decisions, actions and interactions create the momentum and acceleration to catapult you forward.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” Steve Jobs
So how can you strategically seek ways to achieve professional power. Here are just five suggestions from articles I have found while doing research on the subject:
1. Karen Burns suggests that the first way is to achieve professional power based on who you know. If you have good interpersonal skills and strong networks, you have power. You are a connector, knowing who to introduce to whom, and you are a resource, knowing where to go for advice and help. This is a power that can grow exponentially, because the more people you know, the more people will want to know you.
2. Susan Tardanico suggests you take stock of your situation. Who are the critical stakeholders you need to win over to achieve an objective or overcome an obstacle? What influencing style might be more effective as you interact with them? For example, if you’re dealing with a hard-nosed CFO, consider using a convincing approach, which is based in logic, data and expertise. If you’re in a crisis situation where people are relying on you to be decisive and fast on your feet, an asserting style may be more effective. If you’re working cross-functionally and need to win the support of a peer, a bridging or negotiating style may be the way to go.
3. Jayson Demers equates power to influence and suggests you Be Assertive, Not Aggressive. Being assertive is the only way to get your ideas noticed, especially when you’re competing with others for visibility, such as in a meeting. However, there’s a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. You’ll need to present your thoughts and ideas with a high degree of confidence, indicating your convictions, but any excessive degree of confidence could be mistaken for needless arrogance, which will compromise your perceived authority. Tread carefully, especially when you’re unfamiliar with your audience or if you’re presenting your thoughts on an area outside of your expertise.
4. Brian Reese has a rather radical suggestion: The #1 way to gain power is to give it all away.
Yep, you heard me correctly. Effective leaders gain more power by giving it all away. They recognize that by empowering their team members to exercise judgment and make decisions, the team members take care of the customers and the business takes care of itself. Instead of answering each team member’s questions, highly effective leaders ask better questions that are more open-ended. The result is you gain even more power because you’re coaching your team how to learn, rather than teaching them.
Obtaining standing in a network with these qualities requires effort on your part. You cannot claim it as a matter of right but must earn your place by:
- Being trustworthy and reliable in your dealings with others
- Providing support and doing favors for network members when asked
- Returning the favors done for you
- Contributing ideas and leadership
- Working with others toward shared goals
Check out JJ’s new book Accelerate Your Impact by downloading three free chapters.