Teaching our athletes to embrace power: part 1


We’re going to take a break from our Connections series for a moment to discuss an article that I read on the Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog titled, “Women and the Uneasy Embrace of Power”.  This discussion will take two posts, then we will get back on track with the third and final part of the series where we will discuss alumni connections.

I’m going to take a quotation from the post that is the jumping off point for the discussion.  I’ve removed the (numerous!) linked information from the text, so if you’d like to see the backup evidence regarding these claims, clink on the HBR link and you’ll find it all over there.

The evidence shows that women are less power-oriented than men. Women have more negative attitudes toward holding power, they are less likely to pursue power-based influence strategies, they are more bothered by and disfavor hierarchical relationships, they are less motivated to dominate others, and they are less likely to take actions to attain power. Moreover, in situations such as salary negotiations, studies show that women often believe that they deserve less than similarly qualified men and are, as a consequence, likely to demand less and to press their salary demands with less vigor.

Okay, we’ll take those statements as generally true, because the evidence he has to back it up is overwhelming.  So the next step is to ask ourselves, as leaders of women, how do we address this predicament?  We could get all huffy and say that athletes are stronger (mentally & physically) than the average woman so this doesn’t apply to them.  Or we could look at what we’re modeling for our athletes and figure out if it is hurting or helping their chances at being more likely to embrace power.

Most of us have captains on our teams and that puts them in a position of leadership and power amongst their peers.  In the context of a team, can you see why there is sometimes an uneasiness between captains and the rest of the team?  If women generally have a negative perception of holding power…how are your captains viewed by their teammates?  I believe that it is critical to shape your team’s and your captain’s view of what a captain should be, what she should do, why she is doing it, and that it is okay to exercise power in her role as captain.  I often say that we need followership classes just as much as we have leadership training.  It’s got to be okay to have captains with power and influence who feel comfortable exerting that power with their teammates.

How can we, as coaches, empower and enable our young ladies to embrace their roles as leaders and followers?

Read Part 2