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by Barbara Wilder


(Excerpt from Embracing Your Power Woman: 11 Steps to Coming of Age in Mid-Live by Barbara Wilder

"Our strength is often composed of the weakness we’re damned if we’re going to show”
- Mignon McLauglin

At mid-life or older you may have no desire to become a leader. You may very well feel the way I did a few years ago. I was tired. I’d been fighting the good fight for a long time, and it seemed that it must be my turn to rest and let the younger generation take over. Partly it was the exhaustion of peri-menopause and menopause. But later, as I began to feel stronger, it occurred to me that while the younger generation may have the physical energy and passion for leadership in this rapidly changing world, what they lack – and I have – is life experience.

We older women have spent the past thirty or so years preparing for leadership. We have developed skills that are mandatory in good leaders. Even if we’ve never left our homes, as mothers and wives we’ve honed the fundamental skills of leadership – diplomacy, cost control, scheduling, conflict resolution, decision making, motivating others, and crisis management—to name a few.


The first definition for authority in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary is, “The right and power to command, enforce laws, exact obedience, determine or judge.” The sixth definition is, “The power to influence or persuade resulting from knowledge or experience.”

To lead is to have authority. To lead in the new paradigm as Power Women, authority must grow out of our knowledge and experience, as well as harmony and nurture. Many women who have not considered themselves leaders, may find the new definition more appealing and follow their natural abilities to lead in both the leader and guide roles.

To become Power Women we are asked to question the old patterns, face the terror of new paths, grab the reins, ride through the dark night of the challenge, and come out stronger and more powerful on the other side.


As we become more familiar with both the Yin and the Yang parts of ourselves, we will begin to understand the subtleties of leading. Moving into the new paradigm, we become aware that there are actually two parts to the one unifying act of leadership.

The Yang aspect is the part that we have traditionally considered leadership. In the dominator culture, the Yang leader stands in front of the group and directs the action of the followers. In warfare, the leader rides in front shouting directions and leading the charge. But though it has rarely been acknowledged, Yang leaders cannot succeed unless they are balanced and informed by the subtler Yin energy. The native guide or scout in colonial warfare personifies this Yin aspect most dramatically. He was the one who went out ahead, surveyed the territory, and then returned to share his knowledge and consult with the Yang leader. He then rode next to the leader to guide him. It has always been assumed that the Yang leader accomplished all of his great feats on his own. He alone was responsible for his victory. His men followed him. Without him all would be lost. But that has never actually been the case. The guide in empire-building colonial warfare was always the Other, whether this guide was a Native American guide working alongside the leaders of the cavalry as they conquered the American West, or the East Indian guide who helped the British take India. The contributions of these guides to the campaigns they participated in were equal to their famous leader counterparts, but it is a rare occasion when they are acknowledged. The fictional character, Gunga Din, based on many true life guides, is an elegant example of the exception that proves the rule.

The strong woman behind the great man is another example of the guide/leader, Yin/Yang marriage. Other illustrations of this coupling are the corporate president and his lifelong secretary, the farmer and his wife, the ship’s captain and first mate.

Now look at this on a personal level. In the last column about partnership and community I wrote about our own inner balance of Yin and Yang. Now, we can expand that idea in order to find our own leadership qualities within our own natures. We can begin to understand the subtle inner guidance that supports us as we take the steps toward our leadership roles in our communities and in the world.

Traditionally, leaders have followers. In a dominator society that is all that can be tolerated. But in a partnership society, followers become superfluous. They will actually hinder progress. A successful partnership society must be peopled with involved participants. As the guide aspect of leadership is recognized and honored, both will become equal in their appeal, so that women and men can move back and forth between leadership and guide with equanimity. In a community where all sit at a “round table” as leaders and guides, there are no followers. Every person becomes responsible for the decisions and actions of the whole, some guiding, some leading, all participating fully, no one blindly subservient to another. And there can never be the excuse, “I was just following orders.”


- Do you find yourself guiding or leading in most of your relationships?

- Are you a better leader or guide?

- If you prefer to lead, why? If you prefer to guide, why?

- Do you consider yourself a follower? If yes, how do you think that impacts the way you feel about leaders? Do you think you’d like to be a leader? If not, why not?

“Think positive about our future and work like hell.” That was 94-year-old Doris “Granny D” Haddock’s campaign slogan in her bid for U.S. Senator from New Hampshire in 2004.

Granny D is the ultimate Power Woman leader. Born January 24, 1910, Granny D made headlines when she walked 3,200 miles across the United States at the age of 89 in 1999 to demonstrate her concern for campaign finance reform. Though she dropped out of Boston’s Emerson College to marry in 1931, she was awarded an honorary degree 69 years later in 2000. She is only five feet tall and suffers from emphysema and arthritis, but she says that both improved during the three-thousand-mile walk. Random House published her first book, Granny D: You’re Never To Old to Raise a Little Hell.

In 2003, she launched an effort to register workingwomen to vote, traveling 22,000 miles around the country to more than 100,000 workplaces.

“I do expect to be around for several more elections,” she said, when she began that tour, “but you never know. If this is my last wish tour, then my last wish is that America's women, who worked so hard amid great violence for the right to vote, take that now as a sacred duty in 2004.” She was still around in the fall of 2004 and running for the Senate. She promised that she would only run for one term, retiring then at 101. Unfortunately, Granny D didn’t win, but she captured 34% of the vote, and her presence in the campaign lifted the conversation to a higher level. You can read Granny D’s inspirational speeches online at http://grannyd.com/speeches.htm. Also, HBO premiered Marlo Poras’ documentary film about Granny D, called Run Granny Run in October 2007.

As travelers on life’s journey, and as emerging Power Women, we have certain responsibilities. One of these is to pass on the knowledge and information we’ve gained to the younger generation. They have the passion. We have the experience. Together we can make beautiful music.

We are creating a new kind of leadership. Leading and guiding within community means that we lead sometimes and guide at others, while never giving our power to another. As Power Women we are creating a new way for women to be leaders in the world. We are doing this on behalf of our sisters and ourselves now and for the future.

In the 1960s there was a saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Forty years later this is still true. With our skills, natural sense of fair play, and passion for beauty and nature, women can make brilliant, exciting leaders. We come armed with new ideas, new plans of action, and a new sense of individual and communal harmony. Why not lead?



Barbara Wilder is an internationally acclaimed author, teacher, and healer. She is the author of Embracing Your Power Woman: 11 Steps to Coming of Age in Mid-Life and Money is Love: Reconnecting to the Sacred Origins of Money. A former actress, screenwriter, and film production executive, Wilder is a master teacher of light-energy healing and growth techniques and meditation. She currently lives in Boulder, Colorado, where she writes, teaches, and maintains her practice as an transformational therapist and light energy healer. She is the founder of The Transformational Light Center there. For more information on Barbara and her work, please visit her website www.BarbaraWilder.com.

Copyright © 2008 by Barbara Wilder


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