Beth Gullette & Jessica Dawson on Women and Power

Reading: Women and Power: How to Get It, Wield It, and Not Give it Away

Women and Power: How to Get It, Wield It, and Not Give it Away

A recap of our last Coffee & Conversation

Lesley Jane Seymour

Last week, I sat down with two PhDs: Beth Gullette, managing partner of the Institute for Contemporary Leadership and Jessica Dawson, a professor of leadership at Westpoint, for a Coffee & Conversation. The topic: “Women and Power, How to Get it, Wield it, and Not Give It Away.” It was an eye-opening dialogue with CoveyClub members where we dove into the various reasons why women are so uncomfortable with power and what we can do to break free from limiting mindsets (mostly adopted in childhood). For those of you who missed it, here are some of my favorite points.

Women need to just go for it

  • “If women were to participate in the world of work identically to men, an additional 28 trillion or 26% of incremental global GDP could be achieved by 2025,” according to a McKinsey study.


Realize the power you already have

  • It’s not about getting power, it’s about taking it. Go into a situation knowing what power you have as opposed to asking for permission to exercise it. Start to think about situations and dynamics and interactions from the perspective of ‘what do I have going in?’ and then think about how the interaction can go from there. There are all kinds of power: formal, information-based, experience-based, etc.


Cultivate the mindset

  • We’ve got a lot of judgments about power and its associations. Examine your beliefs and feelings about it and reframe it as appropriate. Power is neutral. Power is not bad in and of itself any more than having a vision is bad or having a goal is bad. It can be good or bad depending on what you do with it. Power is about using resources to influence outcomes and get results.  


Prep before difficult conversations

  • Preparation is key to keeping your power. Rehearse confrontations beforehand to let out your emotions so that you can maintain your composure in the real situation. Anticipate pushback and let anxiety of the unknown become a motivator. If you’re passionate and strategic you’ll be more effective in difficult situations.


Build a network

  • Be strategic about the kinds of people you have in your network–who is going to promote you? Who is going to help you when it comes to others? The right mentors and sponsors can help build your confidence.


Someone has to do it

  • If not you, who? Clarify your purpose of power. What do you need power to achieve? Or, if you had a great deal of power, what would you do? Study and work within the system you’re given and be strategic about how you navigate it. The sooner you accept things for how they are, the sooner you can let go of uncertainty. And remember that contributing to results always helps you gain influence.


Read up


Want to watch the whole conversation? Upgrade your membership today! Already a Nester or Lesley’s List member? Watch out for the link in the next Letter from Lesley. 


Beth Gullette and Jessica Dawson

Beth Gullette (left) and Jessica Dawson


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