A Gift From My Mother: Understanding Power and Strength

The title of this article portrays an either or scenario interwoven into society. The application of strength or power is associated with the masculine. The purpose of this article is to provide some understanding regarding the use of strength and power and some consequences based on your choices. In my 60 plus years of living and doing business in the United States I’ve come to view strength as a core principle to living a high quality life, and power as something that is used sparingly in high quality lives. I describe a person living a high quality life exhibiting behaviors of responsibility, accountability, life-long learning, excited about being with others, and most of all love (learning how to love oneself and others). In my experience living these principles allows a person to generate awareness of different results from applying strength and power in her life. I see power as something that is done to people, it is power over others and is usually detrimental to many and benefits a few. I experience strength as a feminine inspired phenomenon applied over long periods of time that benefits all. High performing teams are built on strength, families nurtured with strength, and people develop by practicing mental, emotional and physical strength-building exercises.

It is my argument that building better lives (businesses are a subset of living) is done through deeply understanding your personal relationship with power and strength. Women understand the impact of power more than men. Our society anoints males with power, embellishes the virtues of power, and embeds power in all of our organizations. Since men control the vast majority of our organizations, men control power and we are usually blinded by it. This is not an indictment against men, but a sociological fact: subordinates know much more about dominants than dominants understand about subordinates. After years of living and working in organizations I’ve defined leaders as people who, “Create an environment for other people’s success.” By definition this method of leadership demands a focus on others and a focus on oneself, too. This strength-based mindset—and accompanying behaviors—are not either/or, but rather a symbiotic relationship between oneself and other people. Leaders, using this philosophy, nourish themselves through the nourishment of others.

This does not mean that authoritarian, power-based men do not govern societies, companies and families, but rather, I am beyond grateful to be lucky enough not to live under this form of dictatorial rule.

Company owners, executives, team leaders, and parents are all saddled with power. Most people in these positions of power don’t understand their influence on people with whom they work. I suggest people turn to stories about military combat officers who deeply understand power both organizationally and personally. What they understand even deeper is giving love to the people under their command. Please refer to this story that brings tears of joy, respect, love and pride to me regarding General Krulak (and his wife Zandi) and General Mattis (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/25/how-mad-dog-mattis-got-his- christmas-cookies.html). General Krulak was the Commandant of the Marine Corps during this story. He holds one of the most powerful positions in the United States Military. This story is one of many, which could be told by men under the command of both of these generals. The stories are about the two generals awareness of his power, the ability to understand how to use power to exhibit the strength of love to his men. Zandi Krulak’s strength of love, I know, was channeled to the men and women under the General’s command, too.

I had the privilege of growing-up with parents who fought all of World War II and the Korean War. The story above is so emotional for me, because I lived similar stories. My mother had the strength to hold our family together, build our home, and do her duty supporting the men and women associated with my father’s commands. My father constantly risked his life and career to do what was right for the men and women under his command. Both of them lead through their actions, creating a bond of strength with the people with which they served.

Think of times in your life when you have actually heard someone tell you about the impact your position and your power have on them. This is very difficult for several reasons. (A) For you to actually listen to someone and hear what they are feeling/thinking (B) for the person in a position with less power to actually muster the courage to tell you what they are thinking. The next couple of paragraphs describe experiences that many of us have as children and as parents. I include these thoughts, because I think this “training” carries over into our adult experience in our workplaces.

In many homes dad works, earns money outside the house, sometimes eats dinner at home and sometime sleeps at home. Mom lives at home, shops for food, cooks food, washes the dishes, washes the clothes, cleans the house, meets with teachers, gets children to after school activities, carries children in her womb, births children, feeds children and often works to earn money too. Dad complains about his hard work and has little awareness of the immense strength mom needs to carryout the mind-blowing list of tasks she accomplishes.

The title of one of the early television shows, “Father Knows Best” illustrates the patriarchal culture of the 1950s and 1960s which is still very much alive today. For those of us that are parents, think how you react when your children say or do something with which you disagree. Many of us are blinded by our expectations for our children and blurt out some statement loaded with our own fear, ultimately hurting our child. Our expectations for our children are fortified by our power over our children. Some of us are lucky enough to learn that our power over our children has little positive influence and a lot of negative influence. If we are honest with ourselves we want our children to live out our expectations rather than discover her own.

The result of this kind of parental behavior leads children to abbreviate sharing difficult things with her parents. He can choose to rebel in a fashion that is often detrimental to his health and the mental well being of his parents. When we are children we think our parents have it easy. If we are lucky enough to grow our awareness as parents we realize life is a gift, but not easy, no matter what your age. Again, the major challenge we face as parents (leaders) is our lack of awareness regarding our own fear, the triggering of our fear, and our resulting behavior that can distance our children away rather than bring them closer. Most children grow-up as subordinates living in an environment where they experience power over them. Children learn early on, “It is not what a parent says, it is what he does that is important.”

It is the gauntlet of life: our early years both as children and parents often repeats itself in the workplace. Culture is immensely influencing. We live in a culture where masculine power is promoted over feminine strength. It behooves all of us to become more aware of the power of our position. If you want to be a better leader in your business or family learn from the examples of feminine strength and use the energy of your life to promote your strength and foster strength­ building in others. This is difficult to accomplish if your decisions are based in fear, and it takes a tremendous amount of strength to embrace one’s fear.

My mother recently passed after living to the age of 96. People ask me about my feelings and missing her. I do miss her. I have the strength to cry, because I feel grateful and privileged to carry her lessons of strength inside of me. She was a wonderful human spirit and shared her strength with many people from all walks of life. Thank you Margery Churchill Adams for guiding my journey to honor my awareness of my power and strength. You helped me learn that life is about being human not about perfection and being a better human is harnessing one’s power in order to live through strength.

I find great joy in being able to write these articles and share them with the public! The greatest compliment to me is if you would pass this along or share it with others if you found my information helpful!