Hot Take: Leadership Is Not The Same Thing As Power

Hot Take: Leadership Is Not The Same Thing As Power

Hot take.

Just because you’re in a position of power, doesn’t mean that you are a leader.

A common misconception we hold is that leadership means the same thing as being in a position of seniority or power.

You know – managers in organisations, or politicians, or the person up the front with the mic.

A vast swath of the internet will call these ‘positions of leadership’ when really they are just positions of power… and I think we’ve all known people in these positions that we wouldn’t call leaders.

We also confuse leadership with control.

With certainty.

That leaders should know what they are doing, and where they are going at all times.

That there’s a binary of leaders and followers and we should all want leaders, or want to be leaders.

That what we need in this time must be more leaders.

But what if our whole story of leadership in this culture was wrong?

What if leadership was about visioning and seeding the world we want?

What if leadership was a co-creative field?  What if it transcended the binary, and required participation and consent?

What if the qualities of leadership were divergent?

What if leadership required relinquishing control; surrendering?

What if leadership required the willingness to be lost?

The way I define leadership is this: the ability to follow an inner compass, with wisdom and courage, for the shared benefit of the whole.

I keep this definition intentionally broad, because in an uncertain, destabilising world, we need a whole new understanding of leadership. 

We need a leadership that is generative. 



And willing to walk in the spaces we haven’t been yet.

And that’s not going to look anything like what comes up on Google.

Want to explore how you can embody regenerative leadership?

Laura x

Asking for What You Want Can be a Revolutionary Act

Asking for What You Want Can be a Revolutionary Act

How old were you when you stopped asking for what you want?

As children, we know how to ask. We see something, desire it and express that.  But somewhere along the way, we often learn the idea that it’s bad.

I was about 5 or 6, and remember asking for something and being met with a response containing a lot of fear about our family’s financial situation.  It was a moment of stress, but as a child I internalised the idea that expressing & filling my desires would mean a lack of safety.

And when we stop asking for what we want, we disconnect from our inner wisdom and desire.

What fills the gap are messages from the dominant systems around us: mostly, white capitalist patriarchy.

Systems made of scarcity, domination and control.  (#dietculture, amirite?).

Systems that call women angry, bossy, controlling, a b&*#! if she becomes too powerful or disrupts the status quo. 

And so as women and femmes, we learn to place our needs and wants second or last, whether through kin-keeping, emotional labour or work. 

And a person guilty or afraid to ask for what they want is not a person standing in their power.

This sometimes gets further coopted into spiritualist-capitalism with messages of ‘leaving it up to the universe’ or ‘it’s a sign’.  These messages have value (I say them myself),  but if we say them without *also* asking & expressing what we want, then we’re outsourcing our power.

In turn, we also stop questioning the system, and asking for the world and community we want:

“We can’t afford that”. “That’s just the way the world is”.  “You can’t have everything you want”.  “You can’t trust any politician”. “They’ll never change”.  “What’s the point of voting? My vote doesn’t mean anything”. “I can’t do anything, I’m one person”. 

The result of all of this is 1) the perpetuation of the status quo (which is slowly killing us and thousands of other species), and 2) feeling resentful, drained and burnt out. 

Because if we can’t ask for what we want in our own lives, we can’t ask for what we want in the world.

Self work is world work. 

Asking for what we want, believing we can have it, creating the conditions for thriving in our own lives, plants seeds that allow us to do this in our wider communities. 

Ask yourself these prompts today:

1. Where & how do I hold myself back from asking for what I want?

2. What messages have I received that taught me that asking for what I want is wrong, bad, or that I’m not worthy?

Laura x 

Reading a Room for Power

Reading a Room for Power

from meeting rooms to boardrooms, the leveraging of power through shame is the hallmark of patriarchyOne of the most valuable skills we can cultivate as changemakers is the ability to read a room for power. 

To understand the power dynamics at play, so they can be shifted in the balance of justice.

Let’s say you’re in a meeting or other group situation.

Take a moment to breathe, and settle into your body.  Feel the ground, and trust your breath to keep you in the role of observer, just for a moment.  (Side note: this is just one reason mindfulness & meditation practices can be really helpful for changemakers: the ability to ground ourselves in our body & breath when needed). 

Notice who has power. How does it manifest?

Does it manifest as dominance? A subtle talking-over others, or a dismissal of ideas.

Does it manifest through respect? A reverence for a particular individual and their voice or ideas.

Does it manifest as collective power? For example, two womxn who choose to back each other vocally, thus increasing their reach and impact.

Does it manifest through the silent fear of shame? An environment in which people are afraid to share their ideas, or embarrassed to speak up.

From meeting rooms to magazines, the leveraging of power through shame is the hallmark of patriarchy. 

Because what happens when you feel ashamed?

You get small.

You hide.

And the one who leverages that shame, is in power.

When we can read a room for power, and understand the dynamics at play, we have the opportunity to change them.

Notice the dominance or dismissal scenario above? Gather collective power, build relationships with people who can help validate and back your ideas. Speak truth to power and step out of the shame response below.

Notice the power of respect? Take the time to understand where that respect comes from. Honour it, and cultivate the qualities that you respect in others.

Notice shame or fear? Get free. 

Shame has been wielded as a method of control for centuries. 

It’s been taught to us about our bodies & their sizes or shapes, our sexuality, our personality (Too loud? Too bossy? Too quiet?), our mistakes (not good enough syndrome). 

But you are not a problem to be fixed. You are human in a messy world.

And when we can learn to free ourselves from the expectation of others, to find acceptance in ourselves and ultimately a new, inner compass – guess what?

Shame can no longer be wielded in the name of power. 

Instead, we can stand up in our full embodiment. 

Because acceptance, honesty, authenticity and truth are some of the strongest manifestations of power.

Today I invite you to notice the rooms you’re in: the meeting rooms, the zoom calls, the dinner tables, the organising committees, the press conferences. 

Take a deep breath, ground yourself in your breath and body.

And read the room for power.

What can you offer in this moment? Where can you challenge the dynamic at play? 

Note: Shifting the balance to justice means we must also understand who doesn’t have power, and how it can be shared. If we’re not inviting everyone to the table, we’re recreating the current paradigm. More on this soon. 

As always, let me know what you think, and how this goes for you. 

Laura x