What Does Power Look Like?

It’s a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.


Power, Authority, Leadership. With every decade I’ve been working, the definition for women has shifted.


The women managers I reported to in the 1980s were tough as nails. They were the generation that broke the glass ceiling. They were sheer force. They were loud in meetings. They wore Brooks Brothers suits that emulated men’s apparel, they smoked cigars and went to team meetings at strip clubs, they walked into the men’s bathroom to get an answer from a male colleague evading confrontation.


I was in awe of each and every one of them. They swung hammers to break the barriers that allowed us to enter the room.


And while I was in awe of these women, I knew I couldn’t be them. I was considered weak by male management. Didn’t command authority in a room. Too quiet to lead the troops.


A shift in workplace landed me in a woman-owned business, and everything changed. Critical thinking was the ammunition. We embraced Theodore Roosevelt’s philosophy of speaking softly and carrying a big stick. We no longer wore men’s suits. We cried in bathrooms, celebrated engagements, celebrated divorces. We raised the element of relationship in our work, and we got it done.


This generation of workers, both male and female, would form the leadership of businesses in the new millennium. Equal voices, equal pay, equal accountability. The decade of Work Hard, Play Hard would be born, with jeans and beer pong.


Now working during the pandemic and the outbreak of war in Europe, I see the need for even more change. More comfort. More listening. More understanding. Let’s speak softly to one another and drop the big stick. Let’s create more breathing room, margins for error, working drafts. So many drafts.


As bosses, let’s encourage our teams to deliver their best for right now. And let us do the same. It’s not weakness. It’s wisdom.



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