Redefining Our Views of "Power"

16ecd3cHow comfortable are you with the power you have to improve your own working conditions, ask for a raise, sing your own praises, solve a challenging organizational issue or go after the promotion you deserve? As Gloria Feldt has found, too many people allow the authority they’re given to confine the power they actually have – powers of persuasion, persistence, creativity, disruption and the ability to form mutually beneficial alliances with others.

Feldt, an author, activist and former CEO of the largest women’s reproductive health organization in the world, is on a mission to close women’s leadership gaps across all sectors, in all industries and within every business and profession.If you have questions about how to identify and use power, join us TODAY,Feb. 12 in Connect: Professional Women’s Network when Gloria Feldt, President ofTake the Lead, will be answering your questions!In the meantime, here’s our Q&A with Gloria:LINKEDIN: What advice would you give to someone who’s not comfortable being in a position of power?FELDT: For too long, women have lived with but resisted embracing the traditionally male definition of power, as the power over something or someone. We will become more comfortable with being in positions of power when we change how we think about the whole concept. When we redefine power as the power to – to accomplish good things in this world, thrive as an individual and help others, make life better for our kids, when we, as a society, transform our view of power and value authentic leadership more than domination, then it is much easier for us to embrace the ideas of power and the responsibilities of positions that require the use of power.LINKEDIN: What is the value of risk-taking for women?FELDT: We grow our courage muscles like we grow our physical muscles—by using them. Same with risk taking. The actress Kathleen Turner, a very smart cookie when it comes to leadership and life, says that she never repeats her successes—she always seeks new roles unlike those she already has done, roles that will stretch her abilities. She once told me, “A full and meaningful life must involve some risks or there can be no growth.“When I started my journey to leadership, women thought we had to become men (metaphorically and in their behaviors and even dress—anybody else remember the sincere navy suits and floppy ties?) to succeed. Today, it is clear that the world needs what women have to offer. In the 20th century, women marched to get the vote and change discriminatory laws. In the 21st century, we must actualize the opportunities we have created for ourselves to take our rightful place in the fair and equal share of leadership.Every step of the way forward for women or any other kind of progress has required some kind of risk taking. Otherwise no progress would be made.LINKEDIN: What advice would you give to those just starting out in the professional world?FELDT: When my grandson asked me how I had managed to do all I had done in life considering I had started out as a teen mom with no employable skills. I blurted out without thinking, “I just said yes.” And in truth, I believe that young women just starting out should be open to fortuity, to paths they might not have considered taking.If I had not said yes when offered a teaching job at Head Start, I would not have learned come into contact with Planned Parenthood. And if I had not said yes when offered my first leadership position at Planned Parenthood, I would never have ended up as the national president. And if I had not said yes when my book editor suggested I write a book about women and power even though I had something different in mind, I would not have written No Excuses, and as a result, I would not have founded Take The Lead.But now I temper that “just say yes” with a corollary that might sound paradoxical: “Be intentional. Don’t follow your dreams, lead them.” Most importantly, know that if you have chosen a profession or a position or a path that turns out not to be a good, authentic fit for you, you can unchoose it and do something else.Readers: What have you learned from taking risks — ones that worked out and those that didn’t?Photo: Sergey Nivens/ShutterstockTake the Lead’s Challenge Launch event will take place on Feb. 19, 2014, live at Arizona State University and will also be live-streamed. Speakers include Sheryl Sandberg, Carla Harris and a distinguished panel on the impact of media on women’s leadership. All participants will receive a free Career Transforming Takeaway that will help you chart a new course in your career and life.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.