Newsletter For July 19, 2000

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Stages of Power and the Silent Witness Initiative


Power can be used to bring forth wonderful changes in the world. Since Silent Witness is committed to bringing forth these changes I thought we might benefit from understanding how power can be used and what it's sources are.



Several years ago I did research for a book on stages of personal power in organizations. As a result I developed six different stages of power. It occurred to me recently that we could apply these stages of power to the Silent Witness Initiative. So here is my attempt to do that. I welcome any feedback or insights on these stages from those of you who are intimately involved. The six stages of power are powerlessness, power by association, power by  achievement, power by reflection, power by purpose, and power by wisdom. We all experience all of these stages within us but we have one stage, called our home stage, which we are most attuned to at this time. Throughout our lives, we recycle through these stages over and over, like an ever widening upward spiral, learning from the stages each time we re-experience them. For example; every time we take on a new job or a bigger assignment, we will experience the powerless stage and the association stage, but we might not stay as long at each stage as we did the first time we experienced it. It is possible to stay at one stage for a long time because we are comfortable there. But we can also stay too long and get stuck at any stage and therefore have a more difficult time moving forward.



One way to use these stages is to ask yourself as you read which stage you are experiencing now, and, if you are interested in moving, where you want to be in the future. You might even have conversations with others about these stages and the implications they have for your group. People within the same activist groups may be interested in different stages of power and I think all can be accommodated. For example; in one state some of the Silent Witness organizers wanted to tour the Witnesses and have Silent Witness events which represent one stage of power, and other people wanted to pursue the Results Projects, which represent another stage of power. No problem. They divided into two subgroups and went after both  goals. You could also go to other groups who might want to collaborate with you so you could accomplish both goals. The Silent Witness Initiative sets broad enough goals nationally to encourage everyone to work with enthusiasm. We need Silent Witness exhibits and events as well as Quincy programs, Stosny treatment, court watch, DART, corporate and  Mississippi models, not to mention other programs we are currently researching.



Within Silent Witness, this stage is represented by new awareness of domestic violence, the awakening to the issues, perhaps by seeing the Silent Witnesses for the first time or hearing about a friend or family member who has experienced abuse. It usually elicits sadness, shock, anger, and a strong urge to do something about the issue although at the time you feel powerless because the issue is so immense and the situation looks so hopeless. Action at this stage might mean starting an exhibit of your own or joining one in existence, and finding out how hard it is at first to get organized, get recognized, or find start-up funds. Sometimes you feel victimized yourself and thus alone and powerless. But for some reason, usually because you want to help women, you persist and get started. You're launched and you are relieved. You find a niche for yourself and feel good about that. You are tired from the struggle and need some renewal and support. Type of personal involvement: fledgling, struggle for acknowledgment. Name you give yourself: newcomers, or, if abused, victims. Stuckness at this stage: If your involvement is fueled by fear, anger or revenge on others, there is a danger of getting mired down, thus sabotaging your own goals. Anger just fuels more anger.  Ways to move forward: Find people who can help you deal with your fear or anger and get support so you are not working in isolation. Collaborate with individuals and groups who are supportive of what you are doing. Focus on learning.



This stage represents the learning or apprenticeship stage, when you associate with a larger network of people involved with domestic violence. This could include your local community, other members of your national organization or other Silent Witness state or national contacts. You feel like you belong now, as you learn the ropes, go to meetings, get to know various approaches to domestic violence issues, read the Silent Witness email newsletter and other  literature and get ideas and support from a larger community. This is a time to build your program, setting goals and seeking ways to achieve them. You find ways to bring the Silent Witness Exhibit to the larger community and design other awareness activities. Once you have seen how others are affected by the Witnesses or you have been part of a moving event you start to feel like your work is well worth it and your heart is touched. Type of personal involvement: advocate for your program or for the Witnesses Name you give yourself: activists, or, if abused, survivors Stuckness: This is the stage at which you find that other groups have different philosophies or political approaches to domestic violence. If you succumb to blaming, infighting, and splintering you will get stuck at this stage. Ways to move forward: Take risks and keep learning. Let go of security and be open to new challenges. Stick to facts and research and not to opinions. Stay out of arguments. Listen, be respectful and form your own position.



This stage represents success and achievement in your program. You took your Silent Witness exhibit to Washington or did something else that was significant in your community with the Silent Witnesses and you feel elated by the results. You are knowledgeable about the issues, the press are responsive to your events, people support your efforts. You have become a Silent Witness leader. You have plans for your involvement in the future and see a way to get to the next goals. You can set goals confidently now because you have more of a track record for achieving them. And you are more involved with Silent Witness at the national level, excited to be part of  the larger network, energized by the other people involved. Recognition and resources come easier now because you are a legitimate  organization in your community. You feel you have a voice and that the community listens to you. This makes you feel more excited and more powerful personally than ever before. Type of personal involvement: educational, your role is leader or change agent Name you give yourself: leader or, if abused, a victor Stuckness at this stage: It is easy to get into competition with others at this point because of your success. When groups spend time either intimidating or watchdogging others instead of moving forward, they get stuck. If you are stuck at this stage due to conflict with others, use the Silent Witness guidelines for conflict; listen, respect others, negotiate when possible, never violate your basic principles, take no revenge. Ways to move forward: There is a major transition to the next stage because you move from outer power to inner power, meaning that power now comes from inside of you rather than from your position or your success. You need to take time to reflect, heal and learn to carry hope at a deeper level within yourself.



This stage represents moving inward and asking yourself some important questions; Why are you doing what you are doing?, Are you making a meaningful difference in reducing domestic violence?, Are you changing personally from the experience?, What is the larger vision? You struggle with these questions and come to see that you are involved with the initiative for yourself at some level, as a way to find meaning or healing. Silent Witness becomes more than a project or a job. The more deeply you become involved with Silent Witness the more changes you begin to see in your own life. You become collaborative and share ideas freely  with others. You are more secure in the idea that healing is the way to prevail over violence. You model more consistently the behavior you are advocating-- respect, courage, fairness and concern for others. Your anger and fear heal. You move to a larger vision for the initiative that includes more specific results projects with peace, healing or collaboration as the goal-- in the courts, in treatment, in shelters, in the community. As a result you see that your participation actually changes systems, saves lives, heals people or stops violence. It gives you a deep belief in change and you carry hope for the initiative. You now see yourself as a leader as well as a healer or peace maker in the Silent Witness Initiative or the larger domestic violence movement as well. Type of personal involvement: emotional, your role is that of role model Name you give yourself privately: leader who is also a healer or peace   maker Stuckness at this stage: If, after seeing the results and the changes firsthand, you do not have the confidence that we can eliminate domestic violence homicides, you will get stuck.  Ways to move forward: At this stage you might find yourself thinking differently about the issues of DV than you did at first so you might not find yourself in the main stream. Just keep moving ahead on your healing projects, in gentle and persistent ways. You will need to let yourself be spiritually connected to this work and therefore free to heal others and teach them to be healers.



You find yourself as a teacher for other Silent Witness leaders you come into contact with. You pass along the healing vision and encourage others to get more deeply involved with healing projects that make a real difference. Even though you work hard on results and projects, your real work is to live out the larger vision of healing or peace on a daily basis. You see yourself not just as a leader and healer, but as a recruiter of others who want to be healers or collaborators in peace. You have a deep spiritual connection to your Silent Witness work, for it is your passion, your calling, your life purpose. You are more engaged with your work but you do not burn out because you are fueled by a deeper source and you know your limits. You are courageous and generous. You can bring understanding and  compassion to your work no matter what the circumstances, even with people who disagree with you fundamentally. The major difference between people at stages five and six is the depth of their passion and their ability to integrate their role of teacher/healer more fully into their lives. Type of personal involvement: spiritual, your role is teacher/healer of others Name you give yourself privately: master healer Stuckness at this stage: Your motives might be questioned because you are not interested in money or recognition. Stuckness will come from letting your life be deterred or deflected into side conflicts or other causes. Ways to move forward: Stick closely to your spiritual grounding and live out your passion gently. Your role is to be a master healer and that is all. Don't worry about moving forward!


Summary of Power Stages and the SWNI

Power Stage Activity Involvement Name Stuckness To Move
powerlessness start-up survival fledgling new comers anger, fear collaborate, learn, get support
power by association learning, belonging political activist infighting facts, risk
power by achievement success, meet goals educational leader watchdog. intimidation reflect, heal
power by reflection healing, hope role model healer loss of hope spiritual connection
power by purpose/ wisdom passion, peace peace maker master healer distractive live passion

If you would like hard copy of these stages of personal power you can email me at or call me at 612-623-0999. I'd love to talk with you further about any of these stages.  If you are interested in reading more about stages of power in organizations you can read my book entitled Real Power: Stages of Personal Power in Organizations, Sheffield Publishing, Salem WI, 1994. Available at bookstores or at  (see especially the last chapter, "Beyond Ego and Gender: Leading From Your Soul").

If you would like to take a self-scoring profile to measure where you are on the six stages of power, send me your name and address along with $4.00 and I will send you a copy.



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