Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Women and power

Power is a key issue for leaders.

And a confusing one for women. At a conference of women bishops from around the world and senior women in the Church of England recently, we explored (among other things) the issues of power and authority.

Women have often experienced the abuse of power, so we are sometimes hesitant to exercise power ourselves. On the other hand, women may be able to transform power by using it differently, not as 'power over', but power shared, and used to serve others.

June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, spoke of the power to make decisions - and with a budget of £5m, she has plenty of that; power in the role; and that having 'iconic status' , as one of only two women deans, also gives power.

She noted that the more power we have, the more we need to cherish our own formation, and watch for the temptations that come with power. Power, she argued, is not about who wins or loses, but who writes the agenda. And one issue which women should put on the agenda is the empowerment of women across the world.

Thought-provoking. But like many of the women who spoke, I felt she only just scratched the surface.

I'm currently reading a book called Real Power, by Janet Hagberg, which seems to unravel the puzzle of how one can move from powerless (where the danger is that people manipulate others), to power by achievement, and beyond this to a power which is not ego-driven but motivated by empowering others. Perhaps that is the kind of power which we see in Jesus, and to which he calls his followers. A power which is not abdication, but is purposeful, courageous, humble - and unafraid of death.

Interested? You can

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