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Quick Note

I'm trying something new! As I grapple alongside clients and colleagues, I wonder if it would be helpful to share resources in more quickly digestible snippets. You are invited to comment below each Quick Note with your thoughts, reactions, wonderings, or additions. Let's give it a try!

How Do We Make Power Moves?

Do you hear people talking about power? How do you define power?

I love this article that unpacks 4 types of power: What are power over; power with; power to and power within?

DL McKinney, of Paradigm Shifts Consulting LLC, and I created this list of defensive power moves that we observed while supporting a board and staff regarding LGBTQIA+ inclusion.

Power moves are used consciously or unconsciously by those with power in some way, serving to deflect responsibility when issues of inequity are raised.

Note: In power relationships, the term "they" can be othering. It's used purposefully here because the intention is to other.

  • Timing: "Why didn't they bring up the issue earlier?"
  • Admonishing and then asking, "Why don't they trust us?"
  • Reinforcing power relationships/roles and asking, "Don't they understand their role?"
  • Tone policing: "We could respond better if they said it nicely."
  • Asking for common ground or compromising regarding a human rights issue such as "We have to worry about the comfort and safety of our mothers and daughters if we switched to all gender bathrooms."
  • Leaning on own expertise instead of those with lived experience, such as "my contacts (with marginalized identity) say we haven't done anything wrong, I don't know why others are making a big deal of this?"

How do you see these at play in your workplace, leadership team, or board meetings?

"I am powerful. I have power. My power is not intended to be asserted over others. My power is one that is shared and used to uplift others."

– Brittany J. Harris, Liberated Love Notes

Check out these additional resources on Power: Right Use of Power Institute


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Deanna Rolffs (they/them)
Post by Deanna Rolffs (they/them)
October 12, 2022
Deanna Rolffs (they/them) is a strategist, facilitator, coach, systems thinker, and Process Consultant who works with executive leaders and teams at the intersection of organizational theory, leadership development, justice, and equity. Their process consulting approach focuses on organizational transformation via thriving teams, brave leadership, equitable systems, and inclusive communities. Deanna served as a Senior Consultant with Design Group International since 2018, became a Senior Design Partner in 2021, and launched L3 Catalyst Group in 2023.