As you probably know, people’s titles in organizations don’t always indicate their true level of power. It’s not that a title is meaningless. Titles do give you a general idea of the budgets and power the person has at work. You need more than titles to truly understanding someone’s power in business. Just like they say “the clothes make the man,” I think it’s the power that makes the woman. Here’s what I’ve noticed about power in business.
Next time you’re in a meeting with new business associates or customers, watch for clues about their power. If you’re coming into a room filled with a group of people, look around and notice how they move. Here’s what you’re looking for. The powerful people move deliberately, not fast. It’s almost implied that the less powerful people are going to wait for them. Powerful people limit their body movements. Their heads aren’t bobbing on their shoulders. They hold themselves together, controlling their movements. It’s almost regal. How does Queen Elizabeth move? Slowly and deliberately–inherently powerful. When powerful people speak, their voice is more monotone than varied tone. That’s power. If you were to meet Mr. Rogers and Donald Rumsfeld, just based on their voices, who would you think had power? Monotone exudes power. Varied tones don’t. You don’t have to be a child to figure that out.
I was in a meeting a week ago and was introduced to the company’s new CIO. I knew she had power. How did I know? The CEO took me to meet her in the CIO’s office. He didn’t call her to come to his office while he and I were meeting there. When the mountain comes to you, you’ve got power. She went on to show her force. In her office, the CEO made the introductions. She stood somewhat slowly and deliberately. Then she shook my hand and stayed standing. She said, “Nice to meet you” in a formal tone that was more monotone. She didn’t offer us a seat or make small talk. This was an executive who didn’t need to engage her boss (the CEO.) Why didn’t she? She had power. I know these types of people–both men and women are like her. They’re bottom line oriented and they don’t feel the need to socialize at work. They get the job done. They get and use power. That’s what this CIO communicated in just a few minutes just by the way she acted.
Having a big job title at work certainly helps lead you to success. What you have is positional power. Positional power is only part of the power you have at work. It’s also not enough to ensure your success. You’ve got to look and act like you have power to get real benefits. That’s what personal power is. That’s the real power. People won’t challenge you as much when you have personal power. Women need to pay attention to creating their own power because they’re already at a disadvantage in business. They think if they work harder, they’ll get more done. Wrong. When you have power, work gets done for you. Women have to pay attention and be sure to create their own personal power. Then when you get the big job title, your success will be a lot easier. After all, you’ve got more power.