Harness Your True Power
By now, you’ve heard plenty of stats like these: Women make up nearly 47 percent of the labor force yet only fill about 15 percent of executive roles and 5 percent of CEO slots. But those numbers, from the new U.S. Women in Business report by Catalyst, may be changing soon. The report also found that about 51 percent of working women hold management positions, a strong indication that women are making some headway up the corporate ladder.
Getting from mid-level management to the senior ranks isn’t easy though. A lot rests in how much power you wield — and not in the titular sense. “True power has little to do with your position on an organizational chart,” says Tasha Eurich, Ph.D an organizational psychologist and author of “Bankable Leadership.” “True power is influence, the ability to drive change by changing people’s minds.” Want to make sure you don’t shy away from the opportunities to gain influence at work and recognize your potential? Read on for five surprising qualities of power — and lessons for how to wield it carefully once you have it.
Be Open to Others’ Influence
Think you have to slash and burn (or scream and shout) to get noticed on your move to the top? Not so, Eurich says. The ability to influence isn’t done by force. “To change minds, you have to be open to being influenced. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true.” The people who think power means having all the answers are the people that no one listens to, she says. “Solicit or listen to other people’s ideas and be willing to change your mind,” advises Eurich. Demonstrate you’re flexible about your point of view for the greater good. Adopting better solutions by others will not only impress the people around you; it will bolster their support of you as their leader because they know their ideas are being heard.
Control Your Internal Resources
Dana Theus, Seattle-based leadership coach, consultant and founder of InPowerWomen.com defines power as the ability to control resources. There are two kinds: external (control over money or budgets or decision-making authority) and internal (such as the ability to control our time, energy and thoughts). While external sources of power can be taken away from us, she says, the internal types cannot and are ultimately more critical to our success. “Invest in internal power in order to gain external power, and you will never be powerless,” says Theus.
Hone your internal power skills by getting comfortable in your own skin. “You need energy to gain and manage power. If you have too many ‘energy leaks’ because your mind is worrying, you’re insecure about what other people think or you’ve got too much on your plate and can’t say ‘no,’ you won’t be able to bring the focus you need to work.”
Channel Your Popularity Into Power
If you want people around you to go along with your ideas and put their energy into your vision, it helps if they like you personally, says Natasha Kosoff, CPCC, founder of BOLD Career Coaching in New York City. “The ability to truly influence is not contingent on titles. It is not about how clearly you define the agenda or how well you run a meeting. At its core, it is about being able to communicate your vision to others and to continually engage them in making it a reality,” says Kosoff. Nobody can make transformational change alone, but it is possible if you connect with others who believe in you.
Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
Try not to box yourself into thinking there is only one long, vertical trajectory for your road to accumulating influence and power, says Theus. “The journey to power isn’t a ladder, it’s a jungle gym, just like your career and your life,” she says. So view the acquisition of power as a multi-faceted opportunity instead. “There are so many different kinds of power that you may never truly understand them all and be able to use them to achieve what you want, so focus on the quality of the power you can accumulate more than the quantity,” adds Theus.
One practical way to focus on the quality of your power over quantity? Try not to get too hung up on the details — your title or whether you scored the corner office — when you’re acquiring influence. Remember gaining quality power has more to do with the confidence others put into your work.
Build loyalties and you’ll accumulate power, says Lisa Quast, executive coach, founder and president of CareerWomanInc.com in Seattle and author of “Your Career, Your Way.” Fortunately, the process of building trust can happen anywhere. “All it requires is a commitment to spending time with other people, have mutually beneficial relationships and let others get to know who you really are,” says Quast.
While lots of people in the workplace can get the chance to prove themselves by delivering quantifiable results on the job, Quast says that’s not necessarily enough to gain influence and power too. “Just remember, it isn’t only about achieving results, it’s also about how the results are delivered. More power and influence will be gained through the use of expertise, personality/charisma and positive motivation methods than through the use of position power or coercive power. The first earns respect from others, while the latter erodes it.” Lessons for us all — no matter where you are in your career.