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Mature Women: Power, Hubris, and Resilience

Power and aging, vulnerability and wisdom

older woman in red suit jacket — pexels-karolina-grabowska-8528571

I liked power. I still like it, I just don’t have many venues.

When I was working, I managed small health and human service organizations (under 50 employees), and then I managed up to 250 employees within departments of large health systems.

At the end of my career, I reported to the VP who reported to the President, so I was close enough to the inside circle. Frankly, I did not respect the Presidents of the two corporations involved.

I thought one had her own agenda and didn’t listen to anybody. I thought the second one was treading water until he retired and didn’t listen to anybody. They might have a very different perspective. I was not a bit player.

I was very poor at playing the politics of the corporate world. Even when I knew better, and was trying to keep my mouth shut, I would blurt out my truth in critical meetings. Unfiltered.

One of the worst times was when I was called to a meeting to determine the future of my department. I realized the decision had already been made and we were just going through the motions of getting input.

My employees, who reported to me, have loved and hated me and felt indifferent. It is challenging to be the one in charge, and sometimes be the last to know about a rumor, or a fact I haven’t discovered, or behaviors, or results others are covering up.

Clear communications which got muddled through layers and the natural tendency of some people to distrust The Boss were problems. I believe I was a good boss, most of the time. I have had the feedback that there is a fine line between truth-telling and bullying. I have also had people tell me that I was their best boss. It all depended.

My tendency was to make decisions unilaterally without even realizing that’s what I did. Power is seductive and easy. “Just do it,” I might say, echoing Nike.

Power and women are on my mind because I watched the last episodes of Borgen, the Danish version of The West Wing, sort of, but more interesting from the perspective of women in power.

The fictional main character is Denmark’s first prime minister. I watched her struggling, and failing, to manage work/home life responsibilities. Her idealism chipped away as she made compromises necessary to get a policy win or an advancement in practice.

It felt very real, the fictional balance (or lack) in work/family life and idealism/real-world politics.

We must be tough and resilient to survive. And yet we must be vulnerable to be fully human. I haven’t figured it out.

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3 Responses

  1. Kathryn C. Custer
    | Reply

    Yup. Your blog reminded me of an interview on PBS News a few days ago with Mary Louise Kelly who has written a book on this topic It Goes So Fast.

  2. Susan Spivack
    | Reply

    I love this one…. achieving a good balance always a work in progress………

  3. Vicki
    | Reply

    OMG this took me back….not in a good way….to my days as a “Big Boss Lady” as one guy occasionally referred to me. I also was horrible at the politics but I think a pretty good boss.

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