Written by Susan Diane Howell, MBA

Excerpt from her book, Empowering The Professional Woman


Power, does anyone really possess it?  By what authority defines the power of the individual?  Scholars agree that power may be established by role or position, as the CEO of a company.  These roles are transitory.  Power may be bestowed by religious rite, as a Priest or Pastor.  Members of clergy typically aspire to these roles by personal choice rather than by some supernatural calling.  The possession of money brings power, as does knowledge.  Those who possess resources have power over their dependencies.  However, the distribution of wealth and money is also transitory and society’s definition of truth is in constant change.  Workers in uniform, as a policeman or a judge in robe, are empowered by symbolism which represents the law of the land and their authority to uphold it.  Remove the symbols and they are just like the rest of us, off duty.  Power is an intangible concept that eludes and can be used manipulatively.  Perhaps the distinctions of external power are merely illusionary and impress only those who behold with eyes to see. 


As a woman in the business world, you will need to own and sustain your power, as intangible as the concept may be.  I believe the only true and lasting possession of power is the preeminence over oneself.  Your power to think.  Your power to choose.  Your power to act.  The power of confidence and independence is not bestowed upon you by what others think of you or how they perceive you.  Not your parents or your boss, not your co-workers, your clients nor the public. Your power is bestowed upon yourself by how you feel about you.  How do you judge you?  How do you encourage you?  How do you defend you?  Creating your core means living authentically and in alignment with your own integrity and value system; living it and being it.  There is no substitute for living in accordance with your integrity because no one knows you like you do.  You cannot deceive yourself.  No one can judge you, but you are your own judge finally and ultimately.


With this said, we will now go further in some defining characteristics of power that might set you apart in the crowd. External characteristics of power will not support you if you have not built your core character.  Core character may go unrecognized and unrewarded without the wisdoms of power that this chapter will unveil.


You have the power to create your own identity.  You choose your image.  Do you want to look like a Manhattan executive or a farmer’s wife?  Are you trendy on the edge or classic contemporary?  Do you introduce yourself as a (industry) business owner or a waitress who’s trying to get into the (industry) business?  What role do you project?  Is it real?  Is anything real?  You choose how you want people to perceive you by your style of clothing, your demeanor, your speech and laughter habits and your own self description.  You can create any identity you choose to become and are willing to work toward.  People will come to know you by the role you play for them.  Are you designing your identity, because you are free to design and create and become.


You have the power to protect your reputation.  Your name is your track record and your good will.  Reputations are built up over years of consistent quality deliverance and yet, they can be toppled in one foolish moment.  Guard your reputation at all cost.  Do not be coerced, intimidated or self-pressured into putting yourself into a situation that can destroy your good name and your fine work associated with it.  Entire artist concert tours with multi-million dollar contracts have been cancelled due to a sore throat.  If you can’t deliver the goods, don’t put yourself out there until the time and circumstances are right. 


Your actions will always speak louder than your words.  Talk is cheap, but the right action is where the gold is. Not by your words, but by what you do and accomplish is where your power lies.  Your power to act and execute outweighs all rhetoric.  Powerful public speakers have made many millions, but there was no stage, no audience, no celebrity status and no paycheck until a lot of active planning and executing went underway.  Act today.  Act now, this very moment.  Be the momentive force that makes things happen by acting on that you talk about.  Additionally, talking about what you already did will always carry more credibility than talking about things you are going to do.  In other words, ACT.


Silence is power.  People who choose their words carefully and leave spaces for silence are perceived as more intelligent, more authoritative and more in the know.  Silence can intimidate.  Silence leaves others wondering about the depth of your knowledge on a particular subject or situation, even if you know nothing about the subject or situation. The fool blurts out and talks a mile a minute.  The wise think before they speak to formulate their words and say less, which is usually interpreted as more.  More cool, more collected, more successful, more powerful.  Silence has a mystery about it.  Many billionaires, who we assume would have all of life’s answers to the challenges of business, guard their tongues closely.  They say very little in negotiations.  They collect information rather than reveal.  Silence can give you the ultimate aura of power and personal command.


You have the power to stand out from the crowd.  You have the choice to play the sheep or to play the Sheppard. Doing things just a little differently will portray you as noticeably sundry and even superior.  If everyone is sitting in an employee group meeting, stand at the back of the conference room.  If everyone in the office wears black and navy suits, wear grey with business stilettos.  Set yourself apart.  Never be so different that you are in the realm of inappropriate or a thumb sore, just different enough that you don’t blend in with the crowd.  Subtle differences in appearance and actions will establish your independent thinking style and leadership.


Powerful professionals appeal to the self-interest of others.  Never attempt to outshine your boss or any other authority for that fact unless you are running for mayor.  You look good in business by making your direct-superiors look good.  People love to shine and when you help those in power look good, they will support you to their graves.  When seeking team support, suggest your preferences and always throw in a perk for the others.  Suggest how your way will have a benefit to them.  Always create a real benefit to someone else when you are asking for help.  People will bend over to your ideas if you can find the substantial benefit for them.  Win-Win: you get what you want and they get something they want.  You can take this further by suggesting two or three options.  This is the “you hold the cards” approach.  You decide the options and let them “choose” the option that appeals to them best.  Any choice serves your purpose and includes a benefit for them.


You have the power to be bold.  Boldness has genius.  Never do anything in business or life unless you are willing to do it boldly!  Better for you not to make an attempt at all, rather than swim in pools of ambition unboldly.  You must believe in your effort.  Failure cannot be an option.  You will be walking the wire and life does not give anyone a net.  If you make a mistake, make a bold mistake and learn your bold lessons.  Life requires boldness to live big, to live abundantly and to harness calculated risks.  Without bold efforts, you will forever operate small and hurt those who boldly believed in and relied on you.


You have the power to carve your own niche.  Set your sail for a course of your own.  Dream visions for your own signature career journey.  You won’t outdo the career of your successful parents.  Why live in their shadow?  You will be a mere clone if you imitate your favorite celebrity.  Get a career of your own.  Your limelight will shine brighter by your own crafting.  Differentiate yourself by breaking away from the reputation of others close to you.  Be your own woman and tell the world your own story.


Protect your power by building cocoons.  Successful people are protective as to whom they allow to get close to them.  As consciousness is contagious, hindering thinking patterns and limiting beliefs can sabotage your faith in yourself and your future.  Allow only inspiring cooperative minds into your closest circle of confidences.  Shield yourself from the masses.  It’s true that it’s lonely at the top.  Select your friends and associates carefully.  You become as those you affiliate yourself with.


Take back your power in controlling relationships.  Psychologists refer to two types of control:  Overt control and Covert control.  Overt control is more obvious to the receiver.  The controlling person is strong and demanding.  You must simply hold your ground and work around this type of controller.  The Covert controller is far more manipulative. This controller can identify your vulnerability buttons often better than you know yourself.  They know how to push those buttons for the benefit of self-objectives.  Frankly, how can you defend your best interests and exercise choice when you cannot identify the root of persuasion?  You sense that something is not right, but you can’t put your finger on it and you can’t stop it.  You are acting out of character like a puppet on a string and you don’t know why.  You are in a working relationship with a covert controller and you feel crazy.  Put up your armor shield by recognizing when you are in the presence of manipulation and claim back your identity.   


Raise your power thermostat.  Understand that when emotion and logic come to a head, emotion will always win. Raising your emotional tolerances will strengthen your ability to act on logic proportionately.  This idea may be regarded as emotional intelligence.  Redefining your concept of “big” can help you understand the basis of many of your emotions.  Perhaps you want the BIG money, the BIG project responsibilities, the BIG positions.  What is “big”?  Is big a $10,000.00 monthly income or a $100,000.00 monthly income?  Is big operating a million dollar company or a billion dollar company?  You define the parameters of “big” and your emotions can impact your tolerance to move from one increment of responsibility to the next.  As you assign “big” to money and opportunity, you also declare that what is big is also difficult to achieve, hard to obtain and over your head or beyond your capabilities.  Big opportunities may just be different from where you have already been.  Question the bias of what big may mean for you.  After all, even $5,000.00 in company credit card debt may be more intimidating for some than three million in investors’ debt to another.  The fantasy of a six figure income for one can be disheartening chunk change to a billionaire.  Reason your impression of “big” and know that what is big for you today may change tomorrow.  Seek out achievers who have surpassed your measure of ambition, as this can help balance your perspectives and redefine your success labels.  Consider that big and small are relative perceptions.  By broadening your exposure to possibility, you can more effectively exercise your preferences in proportion to your truest desires and active faith.


“Plan your life and do what you do best.

You can be absolutely anything you want to be.

You may not want to be a star, but you want

to star in your own dreams.”

—Dolly Parton


Susan Diane Howell, MBA is the Executive Director of Entertainment and a Master Vocal Coach at the Academy of Diva Arts, Las Vegas.  You can reach her at the Academy website www.DivasInTraining.com or by phone at (888)340-7444.