The book "Power of Collective Wisdom" describes how Power With is a relational and collective approach to power that creates new possibilities from the very differences that exist within an organization.
The authors explain that,
Power With is an organizational form of collaboration, an idea central to stakeholder engagement, multisector approaches, and co-creative power."
As opposed to the brute control Power Over dynamic, Power With has the boldness to believe that acting from immediate self interest is not the wisest course of action, because dictatorial leaders are not in the position to understand what is best for everyone else. Instead, Power With practices that reciprocal influence can lead to creative synthesis in an organization.
Many times when people think of power, they think of the classical authoritarian approach where one leader has supremacy and control over others. Their domination is largely motivated through fear. This is actually just one form of power, called "power over". What Sylver finds much more compelling, and actually practices in their business, is "power with".
Having "power with" means that a group of people equally share power, which grows through collaboration and shared responsibilities. The "power with" approach exhibits the fundamentals of mutual respect, influence, and group decision-making.
Sylver looks to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to define Power as the ability to achieve purpose and effect change. Here at Sylver, we take a "power with" approach to our leadership style and team dynamics. This means that we share power, which grows out of collaboration and relationships built on mutual respect.
Sylver employees that have more industry experience foster a growth mindset and confidence in employees who are earlier on in their careers. They achieve this by practicing servant leadership, being a constant support system and mentor to employees hoping to learn and push their skill sets. Most importantly, employees lead by example and always have a positive intent. This reflects Sylver's company culture of practicing our three core values: personal responsibility, collaboration, and shared appreciation.
Some ways in which Sylver employs "power with" practices in how they run their business includes assessing and improving both hard and soft skills for employees, ensuring diversity and gender-balanced leadership, adding new capabilities and skills to better serve clients and employees, and building a change-adaptive culture to meet market needs.
All staff members collaboratively make important internal and client-facing decisions. When it comes to recommending strategic paths for our client projects, "getting it right" for the project is more important than a single person "being right". We come together in solidarity to provide confident strategic insights for our clients.
Sylver practices "power with" when engaging with clients in order to collaboratively foster growth and positive change in an organization. Sylver knows that change isn't easy, so they ensure every stakeholder's voice is heard and equally represented in the strategic decision-making process. Sylver most exemplifies their "power with" through hosting co-creation workshops with clients, for their products, services, or new business initiatives. Co-creation workshops bring together client teams from different business silos, customers, industry stakeholders, and their research experts to creatively solve problems and design solutions.
Sylver has dozens of client relationships spanning several years, because Sylver truly sees their clients as partners having a voice at every stage of a project. Some key "power with" practices that Sylver employs with clients include providing clients with frameworks to think through their strategic initiatives before, during, and after a project, employing new problem-solving methods with clients, aligning client teams around value-based visions for their future, and building a change-adaptive culture for clients in order to meet their strategic market needs.
Paige Hendersen is a Design Researcher at Sylver. She engages in human-centered design research to understand stakeholder needs and translate them into actionable insights for Sylver's clients. On a daily basis, this looks like creating discussion guides and research stimuli, conducting user interviews, supporting quantitative market research, and making frameworks to directly convey findings to clients. Paige graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. She also recently received her masters from Northwestern University in Engineering Design Innovation.
Do you know the difference between "Power Over" vs. "Power With" leadership?
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