How High-Powered Women Redefine Power

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to be part of a group of about 50 women leaders from across the U.S. who met in New York City for a salon dinner as part of the Forbes Women’s Summit. Among us we had Carly Fiorina (former CEO of Hewlett Packard, at one time the only female CEO in the Fortune 50), the newly announced CEO of the AARP, Jo Ann Jenkins, senior executives from IBM, Microsoft, Costco, McKinsey, CEO’s of technology start-ups as well as major non-profits. We discussed what it means to lead. We discussed the toughest feedback we have ever gotten. We discussed how to create organization cultures where employees are engaged, innovative, and authentic conversations can happen. It was an intimate dialogue among women most of whom had never met each other before.

Perhaps the most compelling conversation that happened was about how each of us define power. You see, many women leaders have a love-hate relationship with power. We don’t want to be powerful because the traditional definition of power as “power over” leaves us cold. Yet we also recognize that power is critical if we are to advance goals important to us.

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