“Just remember that your real job is that, if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”
― Toni Morrison
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
— Martin Luther King
“Positional power is your license to act, but personal power is your ability to lead.”
— Julie Diamond
We live in a world focused on control and top-down decision-making. Everywhere we see the dominance of ‘power over’ approaches: an economic system predicated on winner-take-all models, using debt as an instrument of disempowering borrowers, strict organizational hierarchies, large national military budgets, etc.
The only true power is power that is shared: ‘power with’ instead of ‘power over.’ At SheEO we trust the intuition of thousands of women rather than a few experts in deciding which Ventures to fund. We use a democratized voting process, and once our finalists are chosen, they all go on a retreat together to distribute the money among themselves with only two rules: you cannot give it all to one Venture, and you cannot divide it equally.
Choosing to cooperate, instead of compete, builds coalitions of power — thousands of women globally who are better resourced, connected, and emboldened because of their desire to build agency together. When we wait for someone else (a government, the financial system, celebrities, philanthropists) to fix things, we abdicate our agency — thinking that power resides in positions or in accumulated wealth. Instead, we need to reclaim our individual and collective agency to usher in the new realities we desire.
In the natural world, the forest learned long ago that to sustain itself over millennia (with many trees far outlasting even multiple human generations) it needed to develop an interdependent system where resources, information, and nutrients were shared. Trees use underground networks of mycorrhizal fungus to aid their growth, known as mycelium.
Mycelium networks can measure hundreds of miles under a single footstep, sharing resources like carbon, and warning of insect or invader threats. These networks function in ways similar to the internet – they have nodes and links, and rapidly spread information among actors (trees). New evidence suggests mycelium is responsible for carbon sequestration, in some cases accounting for 50-70% of carbon sinks in boreal forests.
Similar to mycelium, SheEO is a network of women sharing resources, information, and the nutrients needed to grow individually and as an ecosystem. This is the definition of power with vs. power over.
Reflection questions: When do I experience a feeling of strength and power? In what situations, and with whom, do I lose power? How can I use my power to give power to others?
SITE Othering and Belonging Institute at Berkeley — john a powell
SITE Criterion Institute — Joy Anderson
ARTICLE Power is decision-making — Brian Stout
VIDEO Leader as Host vs. Leader as Hero — Tuesday Ryan-Hart
BOOK The Power Manual: How to Master Complex Power Dynamics — Cyndi Suarez
SITE Raine Eisler
BOOK The Hidden Life of Trees — Peter Wohlleben, Tim Flannery
VIDEO How Trees Talk to Each Other TED Talkr — Suzanne Simard
PODCAST SheEO Money and Power podcast
SITE Diamond Leadership — Julie Diamond