I’ve been thinking about power lately. In a quick Google scan, there are an endless articles and studies on this topic. Some list five types of power and some list seven. In my experience, there are two: positional and connection. Positional power comes with a title and is not necessarily earned. Connection power comes from relationships with others. The most effective leaders I’ve encountered have both. Positional power can grant coercive power, i.e. “do what I say because I am the boss”. Connection power, though, cultivates strengths in others, and shares power through linking people. As a side note, I’ve met very powerful people who don’t have positional power. (Another good reason to be respectful to all the receptionists you encounter.) Historically, women and people of color have not been afforded the same access to either of these types of power, thus perpetuating the system of unequal distribution. In addition, although women own more than 30% of small businesses in this country, they are awarded less than 5% of loans and only 7% of venture capital funds. (source: U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship)
It’s time to get more intentional. I’m thrilled to see a step in this direction with the formation of the First Women’s Bank in Chicago. On a personal scale, another way leaders can address this is to sponsor others. This is slightly different than mentoring, where you might share advice and career direction. Sponsoring means active introductions, inclusion in groups and job promotion. Please consider becoming a sponsor of someone who doesn’t look like you (age, gender, race, economic level). I’ve personally been enriched by these experiences. Life is not a zero-sum game—I don’t lose if you win. A rising tide raises all boats.