Recently, I was in an interactive workshop of female leaders, and a number of women voiced that they had negative feelings around the word “power”. I must confess, that was my belief for a number of years, based on my experience with leaders and leadership. However, recently I have changed my perspective around power after being energized and impressed at the way so many of the female leaders around the world responded to the pandemic. They were confident, decisive, and worked collaboratively with their teams and even consulted female leaders in other countries regarding their policies, practices and lessons learned.
The time has come for us to change our mindsets from “power over” to “power with”. Examples of “power with” include how Jacinda Ardern during the pandemic broadcast nationally to her fellow New Zealanders in her sweatshirt coming from a place of empathy and understanding, rather than command and control. How scientists from around the world banded together to find a vaccine for COVID-19 in record time, also demonstrated “power with”.
When you think of “power with”, what images does it conjure up? What does it mean to you? I see men and women standing together in a circle holding hands. I see community. To me it means admitting I don’t have all the answers and working together with others to solve complex issues and generate creative solutions. When I think of “power over” I think of a man on his own at the top of a hierarchy, making the decisions on his own from a place of ego, without seeing the need to consult with and understand various perspectives.
“Power over” is when one person or group unilaterally, usually through their political and/or financial influence, imposes their views and ways of working on others for their own gain, rather than trying to understand others and see the world through a different lens. They are threatened by new ideas and perspectives and often want to maintain the status quo that keeps them in power. They also encourage and support competition over collaboration.
The days of the Lone Wolf are over. Complex issues such climate change and systemic racism require leaders from a variety of backgrounds, disciplines, sectors and countries to solve them.
I believe that “power with”, which involves collaboration, is the way forward.
In order to collaborate it is important to:
- Believe that more than one “head” is better than one; that multiple perspectives around an issue lead to more creative and sustainable solutions
- Trust those you are collaborating with
- Be clear on your role and that of others in the process
- Have values aligned with those you are collaborating with
- Be open to new ways of understanding and looking at a problem
- Come from a place of service; of making a positive difference in the world.
What does power look and feel like for you? I welcome your thoughts and comments below on “power over” and “power with”.
Have you ever hired someone who looked great on paper, had excellent references, prestigious credentials and yet in an interview your gut told you there was something missing? Yet, you hired that person and didn’t listen to what your body was telling you. Within several months you realized you had not made a good choice, as the new hire ended up being highly competitive and out of alignment with one of your organization’s core values of collaboration.
It happens all the time. Why do we value our rational, logical left brain over our intuitive body’s wisdom? It turns out our organizations have been built on a set of beliefs that value the rational, logical left brain over our intuitive and creative right brain. We are beginning to realize the value of our intuition and the fact that leadership is both an art and a science.
In a recent leadership development class on authentic feminine leadership I taught with women leaders from a variety of countries, we walked through a number of qualities of authentic feminine leaders including: creativity, collaboration, inclusiveness, and intuition (discussed in more detail here – https://pamela-thompson.com/why-feminine-leadership-holds-the-key-to-creating-a-world-that-works-for-everyone/). I then asked each student to rate themselves on a scale from one to ten related to how well they embraced each of the qualities we had shared. After that, I invited them to revisit their ratings, identify the one most challenging for them related to their leadership, reflect on why, and share their reflections. It turned out intuition was the quality they were most challenged to embrace.
How can we learn to listen to and trust in our body’s wisdom and use it to make better decisions in our work and personal life?
Here are a few tools I use myself and have taught to clients from a variety of countries and cultures to help them get out of their heads and into their bodies.
- Body Scanning – This is an excellent tool to use to become more aware of your body and the messages it sends you. It’s helpful to do this first thing in the morning before you get out of bed or at night before you retire.
Close your eyes and take several deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then begin scanning your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Notice any areas of tightness or discomfort. Breathe into those areas and imagine releasing the tightness or discomfort.
- Mindfulness Walking Meditation – Many of us who are busy and driven are challenged to sit down and meditate. If that is you, mindfulness walking meditation may be “just what the doctor ordered”. It’s preferable to do this outside in nature.
As you walk, focus on all of your senses. Feel the cool breeze against your face, smell the salt from the sea, hear the chirping of the birds, see the beautiful vistas or forest you are walking in. When thoughts come in, as they will, imagine they are clouds floating by and let then go or put them in a bubble and watch them float away. I encourage you to do this 3 times a week to start, for 20 to 30 minutes each time. Notice how you feel after each walk and the cumulative effect.
If you wish to learn more about how to “listen to and trust in your body’s wisdom”, I encourage you to read chapter 4 in my book Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women. Note that men as well as women have found this book helpful.
I welcome your comments below, in particular on strategies you have found useful to help you to make wise decisions by tapping into your body’s wisdom.
 As faculty for Women Leading in Change https://femalewaveofchange.com/reshape-the-future/ – a virtual leadership development program of Female Wave of Change.
In a recent post I shared how if you want to “be the change” you want to see in the world, it is essential to do some inner exploration.  I call it “exploring your inner landscape” – those beliefs, stories, and emotions that unconsciously run your life.
Many of us from a young age know “in our bones” we are here to make a significant difference in the world. That said, a number of us have no clue as to what that difference is.
To get clear on the difference you are here to make, it is important to uncover your unique talents and identify your passions.
I particularly like the definition Janet and Chris Attwood give to the word “passion” in their book The Passion Test. They say that “your passions are the loves of your life … things that are most deeply important to you … things that, when you’re doing them or talking about them, light you up.” They also note that “passion and love are inextricably intertwined because both arise from the heart. When you follow your passion, you will love your life.”
When you discover your passion and live your life aligned with it, you feel truly joyful, fulfilled, and at peace. It lights your fire and fuels your enthusiasm for life. You feel that you are indeed doing something that makes a positive difference in the world.
We all have unique gifts and talents to share with the world. Here’s a short exercise to help you clarify yours.
1. Draw a chart with two columns. In the first column, write down all the things that you are good at, or things that come easily and naturally to you. They could be things such as athletics, mathematics, writing, whatever you feel fits.
2. In the second column, write down the things you enjoy doing. They could include being in nature, teaching others, using your body, playing piano….If you feel challenged by this, think back to what you enjoyed doing as a child.
3. Now look at both lists and circle the items that are similar or identical. Then review the circled items. Go inside and get in touch with the feeling each one evokes inside you. Does it excite you? Does it have little or no effect on you? Rate each item on a scale from 1 to 10 according to the level of passion you have around it (1 being “no interest at all” and 10 being “red hot”).
I encourage you to do this exercise. Sharing your findings with others has additional impact as you may gain insights and support from them.
I’d like to emphasize that just being good at something doesn’t mean it is your passion or will fulfill you if you work in that area. What you’re good at can provide clues to our passions but are not necessarily connected with them. A passion is often a blend of what we love and what we’re good at. As well, a passion may change during our lifetime. 
So, what’s next? After you discover your passion(s) it’s helpful to identify either a new area of work you wish to pursue or a volunteer activity that will “light you up”. Getting support from a coach or mentor can be helpful at this point.
An organization that I’m passionate about that is alignment with my passions of loving travel and working with diverse people and cultures, teaching, coaching, and mentoring, designing and co-creating workshops, projects and programs that have social impact, and my own love of learning, as well as my values of: contribution and connection is Female Wave of Change – https://femalewaveofchange.com. I am honored to be Ambassador for Canada of Female Wave of Change, a global movement that unites women (and some men) changing the world into a better place for future generations through authentic feminine leadership. As part of my commitment to growing the community in Canada I recently incorporated the national non-profit Female Wave of Change Canada – https://fwoccanada.com.
If you value being part of a community of heart-centered women from diverse backgrounds and cultures, are passionate about making a difference in one or several of the areas of: environment, education, economy, health, and humanity, I encourage you to check us out. Questions? Email email@example.com.
 This section and exercise is largely excerpted from my book Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women, chapter 8, pp. 107-109.
During these times of unprecedented change, how can you “be the change you want to see in the world”? You may be wanting to initiate change in your family, community, workplace, your own business … the world. Where do you start?
A good place to start is with yourself. Do some inner exploration. Some useful questions are: “How do I typically respond to change? Rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 – 1 being scares me to death and 10 being I thrive on it. Then ask yourself “How do I typically respond to a change that is imposed on me or comes out of the blue?” Rate yourself again on a scale from 1 to 10 and notice if there is any difference. It’s helpful to journal your responses to these questions.
Typically, we rate ourselves higher when we initiate or feel we have control over a change. When we feel it is imposed or comes “out of the blue” we often rate ourselves lower. That said many leaders thrive on change and you may be one of them.
Now ask yourself, “When I think about change what thoughts, words, emotions come up for me?”
You may also focus on a change that you are currently having to deal with and notice what thoughts, words or emotions come up for you. If there are some negative ones such as anger, resentment, fear … (which are natural), imagine each one as a rock in a knapsack on your back, feel the weight of them and then imagine releasing them all and having them all fall to the ground.
It is extremely important to identify negative feelings in our bodies, and to acknowledge and consciously release them, in order for us to move forward and embrace a change.
It is helpful to identify any old stories about change you may have learned from people close to you early in life who were trying to keep you safe. You may wish to rewrite your narrative around change and underpin it with a positive belief such as: “Embracing change is a creative process that opens me up to new possibilities.” Notice how that makes you feel.
Being self-aware of how you respond to change is important, as people close to you in your family, community, workplace … look up to you and learn from how you model and respond to change. Do you typically embrace or resist it?
What insights have you gotten from these exercises? I welcome your thoughts and comments below.
The way many of us in the world are currently living and working is not sustainable. The way our organizations and societies are structured, how they are led, and how success is defined are being questioned. Our day-to-day actions and the beliefs and values on which they are based, are resulting in many of us experiencing chronic stress leading to negative impacts on our bodies, minds, relationships, productivity, and our bottom lines.
Our reliance on fossil fuels and a world focusing on consumption and the belief that earth’s resources are infinite are now being challenged. We now have data to show how nature can heal itself if we let her. Many of us are finally embracing the need to take action to preserve and save our beautiful planet and the fauna and the flora within it.
COVID-19 has shone the light on a number of the inequalities such as systemic racism, gender-based violence … and we are now acknowledging that we need to take action NOW toward creating a world that works for everyone.
What can you do? Where can you start?
We know that change starts from the inside-out and begins with each and every one of us.
The 7 keys to what I call Creative Living and the strategies and practices associated with them are an excellent starting point to begin to “be the change”.
I introduced the concept of Creative Living in my book “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women”. Creative Living is defined as the “conscious cultivation of improved health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace.”
There are 7 keys to Creative Living with proven practices and powerful strategies based on my own journey and work with clients from diverse cultures and backgrounds that are supported by evidence from neuroscience, the health promoting and healing benefits of the arts, organizational development and eastern psychology.
The 7 keys to Creative Living are: 1) Listen to and Trust in Your Body’s Wisdom; 2) Tap into and Express Your Creative Side; 3) Consciously Create Right and Left Brain/Body Balance; 4) Live in Alignment with Your Core Values; 5) Believe that You are Here to Make a Difference; 6) Learn from and Embrace Life Transitions; and 7) Find Inner Peace and Build Peace in Your Family, Community, Workplace … the World.
If you would like to learn more you can access “Learning to Dance with Life” on Amazon. Here’s a link: Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women
In my next few posts, I will be sharing how each of the 7 keys can support you to “be the change” you want to see in the world. Stay tuned!
I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share your comments below; e.g. What strategy or strategies do you believe are important for creating a world that works for everyone?
Why is tapping into and expressing your creative side important for leaders today?
Let’s clarify what I mean by “tapping into and expressing your creative side”. As you know, we have both a left and right brain. The left brain is associated with logic, structure, language, words and rational thought; whereas the right brain is associated with creativity, emotion, “big picture” thinking and intuition. We tap into both sides of our brain for a variety of our daily tasks; however, we are usually right or left-brain dominant. Someone who is right-brain dominant is more adventurous, creative and emotional. An example of someone who is left-brain dominant is a person who is orderly, logical and analytical. When we tap into and express our creative side we are tapping into our right brain.
Since the Second World War, our organizations, educational systems and what we value have largely been structured around and based on left-brain logic and values such as “doing” more than “being” and valuing “competition” over “collaboration”.
Faced with increasingly complex issues such as climate change, systemic racism, and the rapid rate of technological change, authors such as Daniel Pink (in A Whole New Mind) and Sir Ken Robinson (in The Element) have made the case that we need to shift our emphasis away from valuing mainly left-brain traits/functions. They encourage us to change our organizations and educational systems so they encourage, stimulate and reward the right-brain functions of creativity and innovation.
Today’s leader needs to have a vision and inspire others based on that vision. Visioning a desired future involves tapping into your right brain. During these times of intense change and uncertainty it’s important to let go of old ways of thinking and acting and explore new paradigms and ways of thinking and acting. A creative leader encourages innovation and new ways of thinking and acting.
An example is rather than the senior management team in an organization sitting in a room on their own with a consultant developing a strategic plan and then communicating it down through the layers of the organization, there is much value in facilitating the creation of a shared vision where people throughout the organization are part of the process and can see themselves in and have ownership for the strategic plan.
From my own experience consulting with organizations in various parts of the world, I have experienced the power of facilitating a shared visioning process and enabling people through various levels of an organization to participate in that process. While working with the Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan to develop their first strategic plan and build the capacity of a planning team I was assigned, we conducted group consultations across the Ministry. The findings from these consultations fed into a process that included a national level workshop where other key stakeholders were engaged to identify the Strategic Directions and key activities they believed were important to move them toward their shared vision.
Shared visioning is also powerful when designing a new project or program. I have used this strategy; for example, while leading a design team for a donor-funded project in Nigeria, where we facilitated a planning process in the 2 states where the project was being implemented, one in the Muslim North and one in the Christian south. Key stakeholders from each state created a shared vision, identified the key challenges and opportunities in their current situation and key areas that needed support to move from their current situation to their desired future vision. These 2 visions were shared by state representatives (selected by their peers) at a national level workshop with other national level stakeholders. The power of this process led to increased understanding among the two groups and laid the foundation for them to work more effectively together over the 5 year project.
In order for shared visioning and the exploration of new ideas and solutions to occur, you need to believe in your people and create a safe environment/culture where new ideas are encouraged, and mistakes are accepted and viewed as learning opportunities. Engineers without Borders is an excellent example of an organization who have created such a culture. A number of years ago they instituted an Annual Failure Report. As part the process, Project Managers from their various projects around the globe were interviewed and asked to openly share their lessons learned (what worked and what didn’t) in the previous year. These lessons were then built upon and fed into the next year’s planning process. Rather than only report on the positive outcomes of the year, they were encouraged and supported to share and learn from their mistakes. This is the way to improve; to create and share with others the challenges you have faced and explore how you can learn from and prevent them in the future.
As a leader in your community, workplace, business … , you know that change begins with you, as you are a role model for others. So how can you learn to cultivate and tap into your creative side? One way is through the following exercise.
Sit down in a quiet place, free from distractions. Take a few deep breaths to relax yourself and close your eyes for a couple of minutes if you feel comfortable doing so. Ask yourself the following questions and write down your responses to them. Write down the first thing that comes to mind without judging or editing it.
- Do you consider yourself a creative person? If yes, why? If not, why not?
- Are there any creative pursuits you did as a child but haven’t done for years? If so, what are they?
- Are there some creative or artistic pursuits you would be interested in exploring?/trying out?
- Commit to either starting to integrate a childhood “passion” into your life or choose a new one such as “learning to play the piano” that perhaps you always wanted to do as a child but never had the opportunity to pursue. Identify the next steps for taking action to integrate a new or “old” creative or artistic pursuit into your life. It’s helpful to use a two-column table with “activity” heading one column and “timeline” the other.
- Support is important for many of us when starting something new and continuing with it. Enlist the support of a friend, colleague or family member to encourage and support you in your new endeavor or invite them to join you in doing it.
There are a number of other practical strategies for “tapping into and expressing your creative side” in Chapter 5 of my book Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women.
What tools and strategies have helped you get in touch with your creative side? Do you agree that creativity is an important leadership quality for these constantly changing and uncertain times? I welcome your comments and experiences below.