“How do I hold power without being oppressive?”
My client asked me this question the other day and, damn, it’s a good one.
This is a client who has been in the revolutionary leadership game for a minute:
they have multiple team members
an established business
years of experience leading her team “outside the norm.”
And still….she’s kind of scared of wielding power.
Tbh, it’s totally relatable – here’s why:
When she thinks about power, she remembers all of the negative experiences she’s had with power-abusing white folks, men, leaders, etc.
She’s seen how power can be twisted to oppress, harm, and make other people small.
If she’s being honest, she hasn’t seen power wielded in healthy ways her entire life.
No wonder she’s not comfortable wielding power:
She’s scared of hurting the humans of color who work for her in the same ways oppressive white folks have harmed her and her community…
…and made her feel powerless day in, and day out.
Her relationship with power is pretty fucked, and it’s holding her back from being the leader that she’s truly meant to be, which is why she hired a decolonial, anti-capitalist coach to hold space for her, her identities, and trauma (it me!)…
… so that she can get comfortable with holding power, and learn how to wield it in a way that feels good, true and in integrity for her.
I don’t know if you need to hear this too but I’ll tell you what I told her in our one on one coaching session:
Power isn’t something that can be given or taken – it’s not something that you suddenly have or lose.
Power is inherent in all of us. We’re born with it.
wisdom that we’ve all been given from our ancestors
strength of our communities
voice we’ve been given
heart that beats within ourselves
We all have power all of the time…
…it’s just a matter of whether or not we see it.
When we use our power, it doesn’t mean that we will be “oppressive.”
Power becomes oppressive when we use it to:
make someone else feel small
keep people out of systems
hold ourselves above someone else
strip away someone else’s sense of power.
But power can also be used to:
create equal access to systems
So how do you hold power without being oppressive? You get intentional.
You ask yourself,
“How do I want to use my inherent power today?”
“How can I use my power to make others feel powerful today?”
When you come from that place, you don’t have to worry about being the oppressor.
So go forth and wield that power, , because we need more powerful women and femmes of color rewriting the story of:
who has power (all of us)
how it can be used (intentionally and to liberate others)
how you get it (by remembering that it’s always been inside of you)
Power to the people,