Women and Power
What do you think would have happened if a woman had discovered American and not Christopher Columbus? Instead of forcing the Indians to adopt the ways of the white man, perhaps a woman might have acted differently toward the Indians and therefore, prevented the turn of events that systematically destroyed much of the indigenous tribes that lived in North American.
According to Joan Borysenko, PhD and author of A Woman’s Book of Life many women are afraid of power, success, and taking a leadership role because they have seen how men have abused it, as in the example of Christopher Columbus.
POSITION AND POWER:
So often when a woman has been able to reach a position of power, in order to achieve success, she has had to act from a position of masculine power — that is, to be competitive and win at all costs: through pressure, intimidation, and by being aggressive. But what if a woman were to lead by using her feminine power? What would that look like?
I have tried to talk to other women about this topic and have been unable to come up with any kind of consensus. I have also done some reading about it, but what I’ve found is that nothing is definitive. So what I decided to do is talk about my own leadership style, which I believe is mainly feminine, and perhaps begin a conversation that I hope you will pick up by considering what your own leadership style looks like.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE A LEADER:
While I’ve been told I have leadership abilities, and have in fact, had a lot of leadership roles in my life through teaching workshops, fitness classes, organizing trips, activities, heading meetings, and book clubs, being a leader is not a role I embrace. I do not like being considered bossy, which actually happened to me once. Yet, things must be organized, and from time to time I have to step in to a leadership role.
When I take on a leadership role, it is my hope to build a relationship between the people I am working with. Yet I’m constantly disappointed when people only want to connect within the space of the meeting, activity, etc. I prefer a harmonious way of working together, but I do have the ability to keep things on track, and can deal with conflict if I have to by being upfront about what I see happening. Once I know what’s wrong I want to find a solution so that everyone’s happy. I prefer to get things out in the open rather than finding out that someone isn’t happy from another source, or have people complain about what’s going on to a third party. I think that if people have a problem, they need to speak up.
I DO IT MY WAY:
However much I don’t embrace the role of leader, I do recognize that sometimes it’s necessary to facilitate – a much better word than lead, because it is less about power and more about working together — this is what works for me:
- I’m very much about developing a consensus.
- I try to consider all people’s feelings.
- I try to act on everyone’s input, or at least on the majority.
- If I say I’m going to do something, I do it.
- I take my responsibilities seriously.
- I don’t want to be seen as a bully.
- I like to communicate step by step how things are progressing.
- Prefer using persuasive powers of reasoning than telling people what to do.
- I recognize that everyone has a voice.
BACK TO COLUMBUS:
So now you have an idea of how I would lead. Based on this, I think if I had discovered American, I would be more likely to want to build a relationship with the Native people. I know I’d be curious about them and their ways. I’d want to learn all I could about them, and hopefully have an exchange of ideas. Even if my ruler back in Spain felt that the Native people should all be turned into Christians, I’d find a way around it. I would try out my powers of persuasion to convince people in power that we could learn a thing or two from Native people about survival in the strange new world they found themselves in. I’d point out that they already have Christian traits of honouring relationships to one another, the earth, and to the creator, and live the triad values of love, serenity and service. (p.197) What more can we possibly teach them? Even the term Indian is the Spanish derivative of Indio, which means “a people whom in which God is evident.”
We need to embrace our differences and learn all we can about each other. This is a position I think that is so deeply needed in the world today. There is only one Earth and we have to live here together. The world is getting smaller, people are moving around. We cannot bury our head in the sand of fear. We must lift up our heads into the light and see each other more clearly. We are all children of the universe. Let’s work together to hold on to what we have and flourish, instead of constantly being at odds with each other and fighting over a piece of dirt. People are more important than land. First, foremost, and forever. Let us lead the way.