Guest Commentary: New paradigm helps women develop power, equality


Dr. Theresa del Tufo is an organizational consultant, an author and has been a resident of Dover for more than 50 years. She just completed writing a collection of poems and is working on her seventh book on how to survive and thrive during tough times. She is the primary author of the 2021 book, “Women Powered! A New Paradigm of Influence & Equity.”

All creatures, big and small, have this instinctive and innate yearning to be free. Freedom is an inborn gift from the universe, and as humans, we have this authentic longing to choose our own destiny. As the philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau asserts, “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains.”

Women’s struggle for freedom and equality

It has always intrigued me why women are treated as second-class citizens in the United States of America, the greatest bastion of freedom and democracy in the world. The disastrous defeat of a highly experienced and trained woman to an inexperienced, Machiavellian character of dubious integrity dealt a castrating blow to women’s fight for equality. Decades of struggle have not galvanized enough women — the “vital many” — to unite and claim power that could have resulted in enduring social change.

On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court voted to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that guaranteed women’s constitutional right to abortion. It’s ironic and disturbing that two of the justices who voted to overturn the ruling and deprived women of the right and freedom to choose — stripping away autonomy over their own bodies — are themselves alleged abusers of women (Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas). These tectonic shifts appear to simply be the beginning of an organized backward movement, depriving women of equal rights and social justice. I see the “Make America Great Again” slogan as simply a call to action among right-wing, conservative leaders to reclaim the White male dominance in this country.

Power and influence: the missing link

Power is the critical ingredient and the missing link in women’s struggle for equality and recognition. Although there have been giant steps towards gender parity, women still have major barriers to overcome to achieve a semblance of power and equality. My book, “Women Powered! A New Paradigm of Influence & Equity,” attempts to provide women with a roadmap for action on how to gain, exercise and keep power that’s both effective and ethical. It involves the acquisition and mastery of key character traits and core competencies that are critical in the acquisition and sustainability of leadership and power. It’s grounded in the principles of stewardship, moral courage and competencies that our leaders need to embody during these troubled times.

Character and competencies: the ‘Twin Towers’

The two major components of the new power model are character and competencies:

  • Character/foundational traits — Character refers to the moral and emotional characteristics and behavior distinctive to an individual. This key component represents the foundational traits that all aspiring leaders must possess to gain power and influence. They are required elements, not elective like the eight competencies presented in this model. The four elements are foundational traits that require focus, attention and practice for all women aspiring to be effective and powerful leaders. The four standard elements — “Know Thyself,” “Do It for Others,” “Do It for the Common Good” and “Pursuit of the Truth” — form the framework for personal development and growth. However, the approach to achieving growth and mastery in these areas can vary depending on individual choice. In other words, the “how” and techniques that women use to achieve the goal are nonprescriptive. Personal credibility, ethical and moral character, and principled-driven leadership are stronger attributes in gaining and sustaining the power equilibrium than simply professional competence. Power, that’s grounded in character and personal credibility, has a stronger staying power than one emanating from professional competence.
  • Core competencies — Competencies refer to the ability or capacity of individuals to do a job successfully and efficiently. To be competent, they must exhibit patterns of behavior that distinguish high performance when compared with those engaged in the same or comparable tasks or roles in a similar work environment. Professional competence alone is not sufficient to endow leaders with power; however, incompetent leaders have limited opportunities to fail and to suffer the loss of power. The eight core competencies are suggested areas of proficiency for women and men who are attempting to learn the ways of the powerful. The list is based on a literature review of current research, the expert recommendations from powerful women we interviewed and responses from a select group of women and men from diverse backgrounds, who comprised the design team involved in drafting the new power model. It was also validated by responses from participants of a focus group. Intentional, deliberate and systematic training of young women and women leaders might just be the tipping point that could change the power dynamics.

The incandescent joy at finding freedom

I have learned the most profound and insightful lessons about life and living from observing our pets and how they display their innermost feelings during emotionally charged moments. Our house rabbit, Hershey, levitates into the open space, twirls around and dances with youthful exuberance to express her unfettered joy and happiness for her newfound freedom. We rescued her from a pet sanctuary, where she was caged in for several years. Now, she is free to roam, to do her circular run or just sit and stay cool and relaxed, knowing that she’s free and safe. The instinctive and visceral feeling to be free is shared by all creatures. I can’t wait to experience and feel the transforming energy of freedom and the affirming power of safety in an inclusive world of radical abundance, where there’s enough of everything to go around, and I can be free to just be me.

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