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Empower or Influence?

10 Comments 25 August 2010

I get very interesting reactions when I tell people that I write a blog.  I think this is because blogging itself has a reputation of sorts for being a place where some bloggers write about random things on a daily basis.  Now, while that may be the case, and I might add, some of those blogs are very, very successful, that is not the purpose of mine.

Besides the fact that I am not witty enough to make my daily meandering through life interesting enough for 40 thousand plus people to want to take a voyeuristic peak every time they have a free moment…

I write to affect change.

I write to chronicle the messy and sometimes difficult challenge of a woman in her mid-life as she begins to use the atrophied muscle that is her voice in a culture that often marginalizes women and their contributions.  And while I do not have some deep seething agenda to take over the world, (although, if that happens, the world might be a better place!)  I do have a burning passion to help other women along this same path.

After my recent trip to a blogging conference, Blogher ’10, I was struck by the power that women bloggers and women in online media have, literally, at their fingertips.  My question, is, how will we use this power?  I believe that power can be used in two very distinct ways and my friend Lisa Petrilli,  at C-Level Strategies & Awakenings addresses these two ways beautifully in a recent post called, 3 Smart Reasons to Empower Instead of Influence.

I talk a lot about empowering women on my blog.  I believe it is a vital part of what we, as women, can do for one another in community/relationship and what I want to do for those women that I come in contact with through my writing on this blog and my consulting.

But what is the difference?  Really?  I believe it comes back to power and whether or not we want to control it and hold on to it in order to motivate people to do what we want them to do, or we want to pass it on to others, giving them the authority and enabling them to act of their own accord.  These are the synonyms that are attached to empower:  ascribe, commission, delegate, authorize, entrust, indue, & gift.  These are the synonyms that are attached to influence:  command, control, dominion, effect, mark, drag, guidance.  It becomes the difference between creating followers or other leaders, the difference between those who mimic or those who are individuals who are free to live out their own creeds.

I can tell someone all about me and my life and that may be inspirational and even challenging.  But ultimately, I want it to move them to action in their own lives, I want them to consider where they are in their own journey; what their gifts are, if they use their voice well, if they feel like they know themselves and where they are headed for the next forty years, if they know where and how they can contribute to their worlds.  There is always a place for influence.  But it is my purpose here, to empower.

I believe we are all unique with different gifts and different paths to follow.  What one woman may find to be her limit or her ‘pale’ that she must push beyond may seem a walk in the park to another.  The point is that we all have them, the boundaries, the pales, the voices in our head, the inner critics, the real-life critics that keep us from living our lives to the fullest.

Who is in your life to empower you?  Send me an message on the Contact Jorja page if you want to set-up a consultation.  What say you people?  Do you want to be empowered?  Are you an empower-er yourself?

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10 Comments so far

  1. Jorja,

    This post is so beautifully written! I am honored that you thought to include me!

    I absolutely love your look at the synonyms of empower and influence; most especially the word “gift” as a synonym of “empower!” The fact that you are trying to empower women through your blog is a magical gift that you are giving to them and to the world!

    And I love how you point out that empowering creates other leaders while influening creates followers – so well said.

    As leaders we need to be able to do both for different reasons, but it’s the empowering others that brings the fulfillment…never the influencing (at least for me).

    Thank you so much for sharing your gift with the world and for making me a part of it!


    • Jorja says:

      lisa, hey lady, thanks for all the love! you make me want to grow-up and be a c-level girl, i swear it! i think you’re brilliant! and i love the title to your most recent post…anybody who can use that most fabulous carly song to title a post…you rock woman! but in all seriousness, fulfillment does come from empowerment, i totally agree! let’s do it!

  2. Jill Chivers says:

    hey ther Jorja – this post really had me thinking… at first, I couldn’t grasp the differences between empower and influence… sure, theyr’e different, but are they THAT different?

    Then I got to thinking about it a bit more and your question: who is in your life to empower you? First I had the “oh nobody” response.. then I thought about the number of people who might nudge me along, often very uncomfortably, to do something better. I often don’t like it, and internally resist it, but I do take action.

    Thank you for prompting me to think about this differently! You’ve empowered me today!


  3. Sarah Arrow says:

    Wow, what a powerful post Jorja, you are right we need to empower to get more, superb women leaders rather than create a band of followers!

    I shall be doing more to ignore the ‘inner critic’ so I can do my part empowering.

    • Jorja says:

      sarah, hey there, thanks for your kind words! it is very flattering to have followers and for some purposes, it is the goal, but ultimately, if we long to push other women out into the world, their particular worlds, to make a difference, then we must empower!

  4. Cynthia Williams Insko says:

    Jorja, this is a great post. It has me thinking about how I have chosen to either influence or empower folks AND whether or not I really want to receive empowerment.

    Since I have spent my whole life in church and in professional ministry, I can’t help but think about your question within a spiritual context. While I believe strongly that Christ was an empowerer it strikes me that some of us women don’t want to be empowered, only influenced. With empowerment comes ownership, responsibility and guttsyness (is that a word?). It is safer and maybe easier at first glance to be under someone’s influence who can guide us rather than listening to and trusting the inner voice of the Spirit that wells up within our authentic, God-created selves.

    It has been my experience that many churches and religious people espouse influencing women and affirm women who are influencers, but do not empower them or entrust them with much. At some level, I have bought into this and have accepted the limits of merely influencing or being influenced.

    I want to be an empowerer. The folks who empower me are people who say things to me like: “Is what you are saying ‘yes’ to life giving or life denying?”, “Now is the time to reinvent yourself..”, “Breathe deeply”, and “Thank you for believing in me.” Just this week someone empowered me with some money to take a class I want to take.

    Thanks, Jorja for reminding me to be thankful for all of the gifts. Now it’s my job to receive them!

    • Jorja says:

      cynthia, yes, yes and yes! i think that it really does come back to control and in the church, or religious circles in general, those in leadership find it difficult to trust those who are in a ‘following’ position. they also, ultimately, find it difficult to trust god. so, it is much easier to create mini-me replicas of our leadership who follow our influence than it is to empower others to trust their own wisdom and walk. it is also easier for us to just do what others tell us to do than it is for us to use our own minds and hearts and discern truth on our own. i am excited to hear you say that you want to be an empowerer! you are the woman to do it! so thrilled to see you embrace it!

  5. Hey Jorja! This is such a great, thoughtful post – and an important one as well. At times it’s difficult not to feel a bit influenced by others, but you are absolutely right that – especially when surrounded by such wonderful women – “empowered” definitely feels better than “influenced.” I am *still* reeling from the boost of empowerment that I received upon meeting all of the fabulous women at BlogHer ’10 – keep it coming, ladies! Take care – s

    • Jorja says:

      stacey, ultimately, we are all influenced by someone and influence is not a bad thing, as you well know. you have to influence people to consider certain options in their pregnancies. however, they must become empowered with the information that you give them if they are to own it!

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“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...” Annie Dillard

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