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One of the 10 areas on the masculine-feminine continuum that we have not yet explored is “How We View and Use Power.” Max and Fran, prototypes of masculine and feminine approaches, represent the two sides of the continuum. The masculine vs. feminine ways of viewing and using power arise in part out of Max’s and Fran’s different worldviews.  Max sees himself as an individual in a hierarchy while Fran sees herself as part of a network. And it arises in part out of how they learned to or did play. Max’s childhood games (e.g., sports and army) involved hierarchy. Fran’s games (e.g., dolls, and jump rope) involved “flat” structures where power was evenly shared.

In a hierarchy, power is vertically distributed. Those in higher ranks have more of it than those in lower ranks. In a network or “flat” structure, power is more equally distributed and shared. The masculine side of this continuum, then, is “Power Over.” The feminine side is “Power With.”

In Max’s world, having power means you make decisions and give orders. Power is seen as finite; getting more power may mean taking it from others. In Fran’s world, power is seen as less finite. She prefers a flatter power structure and is comfortable sharing power or achieving results with or through others. One example is how Max and Fran handle information (a source of power in many organizations). Max is more likely to hold information close, exercising control over who gets it. Fran is more likely to share information more broadly.

The positive things about Max’s form of power are that it is simple and efficient; it encourages competition. And being deliberate about sharing sensitive information may be a good thing. The downsides are that this form of power can intimidate those with less power and shut them down. It may promote conformity rather than inclusion. Simply following the directions of the person with the most power may not always lead to as good a result as pursuing what several people agree is the best idea.

Fran’s form of power increases cooperation and involvement. It allows the development of more people and promotes effective sharing of information. It may, however, be slower and less simple and clear.

The most effective (inclusive) leader can use both forms of power and leverage the talents of both Max and Fran at work.

Have you seen these differences?  Share stories that illustrate the strengths and downsides in a comment!