Leaders use power to achieve their goals and as with so many aspects of leadership, there are subtle gender differences in the way power is wielded in the workplace. Power structures are evolving in the digital age, with the old hierarchical model of power being replaced by one based on networking, influencing, team building and multi-tasking—characteristics generally associated with female leaders.
Management models show the way things get done in today’s organisations is through networks and networking. I’ve experienced the positive impacts of networking through my seven years as Chair of the Clinical Senate in Perth—a body that brings together clinicians from across Western Australia to debate key problem areas in health and come up with solutions. It enabled me to build enormous networks which today are still enabling me to bring people together and influence change.
The first time I heard power talked about in the leadership context, I was working at Royal Perth Hospital. The Chief Executive said, “We’ve got to talk about power,” and I was really offended by that—when I thought about power in the leadership context I was thinking about it in terms of the misuse of power. And I don't think that's necessarily the way I would conceptualise power now. You can build your credibility and have influence through your networks without having to dictate or direct. Women in particular use this approach, giving them tremendous opportunities to seize the day. We have to be proactive in helping women crash through the glass ceiling and to use their power for the benefit of other women and their local community.
Women in developing countries are setting up businesses with the help of Opportunity International Australia’s small loans and through their businesses they’re bringing about immense change in their communities—they too are building networks within and outside of their local communities and influencing other women to be change-makers in their families and local communities. In this way they are working to end poverty—one family and one community at a time.
My journey with Opportunity began when a colleague introduced me to the organisation years ago. I’d just returned from a trip to India with seven other women and was confronted by the poverty in which so many women lived. When I learned about Opportunity’s microfinance model and the way it empowers women to end poverty, I decided to become a donor. Opportunity’s model of micro-finance and the way it empowers women and their families absolutely lines up with my values around empowering women to become leaders.
I will be speaking about empowering women to be leaders and change-makers at Opportunity’s Women4Women event in Perth on 8 August. I hope you’ll be able to join me at the event. To register click here.