Most of us associate being powerful with holding a certain position in an organization—if you are the boss or the highest ranking team member, then you can claim your power because of your role. Many companies are hierarchical—a person’s title alone can make them powerful. Another way to think of the power of position is what can be described as having formal authority. Unfortunately, Latinas are terribly underrepresented in senior leadership roles with only 3% of all management positions being held by Latinas.
But there is a way to leverage your power beyond holding a key position.
Recent research from the Center for Creative Leadership has found that a leader’s power can be drawn from 7 different sources. In my last post, I focused on two of the sources of power most frequently sited by leaders as key to their success—the power of relationships and the power of information. Who you know, what you know and what you share with others or even don’t share is just the beginning of understanding your power.
Another source of power documented in this study is your demonstrated expertise. To be an expert in something means that you have mastery in a subject or a specific skill. This only comes from careful study or practice or both. For example, you have excellent sales results because you know how to demonstrate all the features available in a new software platform—even the ones that just a few clients might ask you to demonstrate. In your workplace there may be some skills that everyone is expected to demonstrate, and you go above and beyond those skills. This is a power of expertise: you hold the credibility of the organization in your hands and thus you are extremely valuable to your employer.
How do you go about developing the power associated with being seen as an expert? First, make sure you are in a career that you have nothing short of deep passion to pursue to the fullest. When you really love what you do, you can master that work or skill because all those hours you will spend at your career objective just doesn’t feel like work. Second, recognize that becoming an expert is something that takes an investment of time. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outlier illustrates that to be an expert or just really good at something involves almost 10,000 hours of practice or study. If you were able to do your work 8 hours a day, 365 days a year, this is almost 3 years to achieve mastery. That pace requires enormous focus. Olympic athletes who tell of practicing their gymnastic routine, or swimming, or skating from a very young age exemplify this kind of dedication.
Too often I’ve seen young Latinas who are eager to advance in their careers or launch a business hurt their chances of success because the level of expertise needed to advance is not fully developed. Or they may have strong mastery of a subject but neglected the skills needed for effective communication, executive presence, or leadership style. If you are hoping to make partner at your law firm, it isn’t just about logging hours at the law library, it’s about winning your case. In law as in many professions, communicating effectively is key. Your expertise as a lawyer or physician or engineer has to be communicated. To be seen as having real expertise is putting all of this together so that people look to you for your guidance, input, or feedback—this is very powerful! Tell me about your experience being a powerful Latina at Latina Cubicle Confidential™ or join me live at LatinaVIDA™.