Women and Power: How (appropriate) risk-taking can make you a better leader

By Liz Rivers, Women’s Leadership Coach, Mediator and CEDR Faculty Member

Part of embracing power is knowing how and when to take risks.  Too cautious and nothing changes, too reckless and disaster can ensue.

Women typically are more risk-averse than men, and often get marked down in the leadership stakes as a result.  Yet we don’t want to emulate the reckless risk taking of the financial sector which led to the banking crisis.

A little known tool to help us refine our risk-taking ability is embodied intuition.  More than just “gut feel”, this is a system which helps us get into “the zone” and intuit what the best course of action will be in any given situation, helping us access a level of intelligence that goes beyond our logical decision-making capacity.

Just as a sportsperson on the field can somehow sense what is happening behind them and pass the ball magically to the right place, we can learn how to read the signals from our bodies and our environment to sense what the optimum course of action is.

Sounds good?

So how do you do it?

This simple exercise from Leadership Embodiment by Wendy Palmer and Janet Crawford  will shift how you approach risk:

  • Breathe in and imagine the breath going up your spine, lengthening it
  • Breathe out and imagine the breath going down the front of your body, softening your chest and smiling as you exhale

This breathing will shift the chemical balance in your body, quieting down the fight/flight survival part of the brain and giving you more access to the intuitive, problem-solving brain.

This leads to a type of power which is “power with” (collaborative, inclusive, creative) rather than “power over” (top down, hierarchical, win-lose).

In these volatile political times, we urgently need women who can model a new type of power, harnessing the energy of the recent women’s marches around the world and taking this into our workplaces, families and communities.


[On Thursday 9 March 2017 Liz Rivers and Susanne Schuler will be leading a Masterclass on Women in leadership entitled “How to be a powerful woman (and still be liked)“.]

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