What is soft power?

Tell me first, what does ‘powerful’ mean to you? 

Is it that very aggressive way of holding power over someone or something? Having dominion over? Being able to coerce? 


If I say ‘Powerful Woman’ – what image does this conjure up for you? 


Is it the stereotypical ‘bitch in the boardroom’ wearing her power suit and shoulder pads (I know that’s a bit 80‘s, but bear with me!) Bossy and a bit scary, she has achieved a lot, but she had to be even better than the men to get to where she’s got. Perhaps sacrificing the opportunity for a family because she was so single minded about her career? But actually you know, underneath that strong capable exterior she’s exhausted. Would you like this type of power?


Here in the Western world we’ve grown up in a masculine paradigm that celebrates the individual rather than the team. Competition and assertiveness are deemed more important than collaboration and encouragement. 


The workplace has been dominated by men for hundreds of years, and when women were finally given the opportunity to enter that world they found themselves in a masculine culture. There is still an under-representation of women in many professions, a massive gender pay gap and a persistent, unconscious masculine bias. Please don’t think this is a man bashing blog – I’m simply telling it as it is. 


It’s no surprise then, that when it came to trying to be powerful, women found a power that matched the paradigm they were in. We took on a masculine archetype that has been nicknamed ‘Superwoman’ by the One of manyTM organisation. Operating in Superwoman was our attempt at matching the men in our workplaces and still be the loving wife and mother, the social diary organiser and the efficient housekeeper at home. 


Superwoman leads women to mistakenly believe we have to always be achieving if we are to feel worthy. It drives our inner limiting belief that we aren’t good enough. That we must do everything ourselves, keep all the plates spinning and all the balls up in the air and never ask for help.  


If you recognise some of this, I invite you to step into Soft Power. Now this term can make some women freak out. They interpret the word ‘soft’ as ‘weak’, but let me reassure you. Soft means ‘yielding’, and in martial arts to ‘yield’ is to absorb the impact of the attack and turn the energy back onto the opponent. Think about the willow branch, it yields in the wind – it doesn’t break! 

Put this together with the word power, the meaning of which is actually just ‘to be able’. You have power, therefore you can.


When operating in Soft Power you are coming from your more natural, feminine energy, being able in a collaborative rather than competitive way. It’s no less powerful than masculine power – just different. It’s a case of using the most appropriate power for your biology. If you’re a woman, your biology is very different from a man, no matter how clever, capable or qualified you both are. There is no disputing this fact. So the different biology requires a different power to fuel it. 


Think of an electrical appliance. If you plug a USA hairdryer into a USA socket, which provides 110 volts, it works perfectly. But if you brought that USA hairdryer to the UK, where the voltage at the socket is 230 volts, it would short out. So does this mean that 110 volts is better than 230 volts? Not necessarily – it depends on the machinery using that power. We are the machinery and we need to be using the correct type of power. 


Feminine power (or Soft Power) is not better than masculine power or vice versa. We all need to access both types depending on the situation we are facing. In fact, a bit of masculine power now and then helps us to push through in certain situations e.g. if there’s a deadline to meet. 


But like that hairdryer, women burn out when we attempt to run on masculine energy all the time. Our biology just doesn’t work in this way because we don’t have the same levels of testosterone to fuel this type of energy. We end up depending on adrenaline and cortisol to do the job instead. But these are our stress hormones; they are only intended to be released by the body in short, sharp bursts in moments of stress, so that the fight or flight mechanism can kick in. Adrenaline will only keep you in this mode of operating for so long…eventually you will burn out. 


So if you’ve been operating in a Superwoman mode for a long time and you’re noticing the effects of this – perhaps on your physical and mental health, your relationships or your impact at work – how do you switch into Soft Power? 


Well, I introduce my clients to the 5 Women’s PowerTypesTM  – Warrioress, Mother, Lover, Queen and Sorceress. They are all feminine archetypes, so you will recognise them. They are all strong and they all work in the Soft Power mode. Each of them has unique traits, which will help you in different situations. They give us a new model for feminine leadership and allow us to create results with more ease and flow. 


The good news is you already have them all within you. The bad news is that over time the paradigm you have been living in may have quashed some of them so that you can’t access them very easily. 


I’ll talk in more detail about the PowerTypesTM in my next blog. I’ll share how you can investigate your own scores by taking a PowerTypeTM Profile test, how to access them more easily and how helpful they can be for you. Look out for all this on the website and in my weekly newsletter. 


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