Last week I watched a brilliant woman in a smashing red dress speak on the concept of power, and all the meanings and implications we routinely attach to this word: things like control, force, manipulation, exploitation, dominance, etc.
Then she invited us to consider what she called "the 4 faces of power," which she derived by plotting "feminine vs. masculine" on the x axis and "active vs passive" on the y axis to form the following four quadrants:
Active masculine: Penetration; inserting yourself, your ideas and values into a space.
Passive masculine: Holding space; creating a safe container where things can emerge that might otherwise have remained unexpressed.
Passive feminine: Attraction/seduction; drawing others to you, making others want to help you by exuding magnetic pull.
Active feminine: Creative expression: giving form to your ideas; producing art that others can experience or behold; making the intangible tangible.
Now, setting aside for a moment the illusory nature of dualities like "masculine vs. feminine," I invite you to consider this question:
In which of these four expressions of power do you feel strong, and in which do you feel less than fully unleashed?
When I ask myself this question, I am surprised to discover that my expressions of power have done an almost complete about-face in the course of the past ten years: from active masculine (challenging authority, asking pointed questions and confidently asserting my opinion as fact) to the passive (creating the space in which long-held assumptions and debilitating narratives can be gently dissolved so that truth can emerge); and from passive feminine (boy, was I a terrible flirt!) to the active (turning my energy and ideas into words, experiences, products and services to share with the world).
Of course, storytelling itself is an act of creative expression. But I can't help but notice that within it, there is room for all three of the other types to emerge, and show their faces.
As you consider where you fall on this spectrum, do you think your form of expression has evolved over time? Which face are you most comfortable wearing; which makes you shy away or resist?
If you were to imagine your most powerful future self -- someone who has explored, developed and integrated all four faces -- what could you start experimenting with today, so that you might one day become that person?