Is Professionalism Power?

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Recognizing opportunity

Several years ago, I sat in an “unconference” watching, listening, and learning. I thought it was one of the most incredible experiences I had ever had. I was in the midst of greatness and I knew it. I soaked it up, I cherish it still.


It was an opportunity for me to learn, I viewed it as that. And learn I did. But true learning is evident in implementation. I was eager to implement, or put into practice what I had learned. I did, and so did many others.

Years later, I was presenting at an informal unconference. We all sat in a circle and talked about the industry in which we worked, HR and Recruiting – plus its associated technologies. I viewed my responsibility as the leader of the discussion to challenge the others in the circle, to open their minds – to craft my own power by listening to their responses, watch them squirm at uncomfortable ideas, but ultimately — have an honest conversation.

Professionalism Shot

I have, on a very rare occasion cussed in a blog post – but never, that I can think of, in a presentation. While in the midst of my above referenced presentation, an esteemed gentleman to my immediate right, interrupted me and declared, “Rayanne – you don’t know what the f*ck you are talking about.” Because I am not easily rattled, I moved the conversation on – but my insides were screaming. Not because he had sworn or because he had questioned my knowledge, but I think because I held this gentleman in such high regard and he had, in just a few words, crushed the professionalism I had tried to establish in an informal setting.  And though I was not visibly rattled, he had sucked my power away and with it, some deep seeded respect.

Timing is Everything

Propitiousness. Understanding that timing is valuable in maintaining professionalism is a power very few, even the greatest CEOs possess. Many meet day-to-day operations day-to-day, instead of planning ahead or really understanding scope and scale. It isn’t easy – it can be staggering to consider and thus, many don’t. Thinking – strategizing – mindfulness, all imperative for propitious decision making and smooth operations. Many leaders either procrastinate or act too soon – greed and impatience have caused the end of more businesses than we know, while failure act has, as well.  And what is lost in the process? Is there truly a time and place for everything?

Does professionalism make for a better leader?

There are those who would argue that professionalism has nothing to do with the craft of power or personal success.  I suppose if it has nothing to do with their personal success, they are right. Confidence is built internally, no outward force or words of others can supersede the power built and maintained from within.  I suppose the opposite is then true. The naysayer sitting to my right who poo-pooed my structure, who messed up my timing, who delighted in the shift he created in the open conversation only had the power I gave him – in that moment, internally or not. I let it happen. I let it hurt me.

I tell my children all the time that words only have the power you give them. Perhaps I should listen to my own words – there is power in them.


The True Craft of Power, part 1
Is Professionalism Power? part 2
The Power of Self, part 3


by Rayanne Thorn

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