While continuing to interview incredible leaders for the Quietly Powerful Leader interview series, a few shared their discomfort with being called Quietly Powerful, in particular, ‘powerful’. They were happy to be called ‘influential’ or ‘confident’ but not ‘powerful’.

I have also come across senior leaders who underestimate or downplay the power they actually have. Perhaps they feel powerless at times when they feel they are not in control or they don’t really know what is going on in organisations.

Many of us may be stuck on a certain view of power, the dominating power that tends to power over others. This kind of power tends to benefit those in power and not the ones who are not in power.

It doesn’t help that we regularly see news about the abuse of power by those in power. There is no shortage of examples, whether they are issues raised by Blacks Lives Matter, #metoo, March4Justice, organisations called out for environmental and heritage site damage, Royal Commissions into Aged Care, Disability, Financial Institutions, Sexual Abuse in Institutions (the list goes on) and leaders who are not addressing these issues appropriately. Expectations are shifting as those who are misusing power are being called out. Those who are being powered over have had enough and are speaking up.

While Quietly Powerful has been focused on shifting our view of what good leadership looks, sounds and feels like, perhaps it’s also important to shift our beliefs about what power could look like.

Brene Brown, TED speaker on vulnerability and author of many books such as Daring to Lead spoke about the need to shift from ‘power over’ to ‘power with’.

‘Power with’ is a different kind of power where it is used for the benefit of many, not just oneself. Quietly Powerful leaders tend to use power in this way, such as allowing people around them to shine because they don’t need to be the centre of attention nor the one who knows everything.

‘Power with’ actually requires a lot more personal power, inner strength and courage. According to Julie Diamond, author of Power: The User’s Guide, “no matter what our positional power—status, role, wealth, or even size—it’s our inner sense of personal power that matters most when it comes to using power well”. Quietly Powerful Leaders are comfortable with themselves, such that they are happy to share that they have things they don’t know or are not good at, to be challenged, to create space for others to lead. In other words, they are powerful with others around them.

Unless more of us own our power and use it wisely, we won’t make the positive difference we wish to make in the world and we will continue to suffer the consequences of those who misuse power.

How would you feel about being seen as powerful, if we see power differently?

How are you developing your personal power, inner strength and courage?

Do you know people who are powerful in a ‘power with’ kind of way?