Lately I’ve been obsessed with researching for my next book.  The topic? You guessed it…women power brokers.  I’ve been gathering the information on the women I want to interview for this book and I’ve been watching press and footage of some of them, trying to get an understanding of who they are.  I’ve learned that power comes in many forms and has different meanings for different people.

In a way, I am considered a power broker. Not because of fame or fortune (still working on those HAH!) but because of the connections I make and relationships I develop.  I am the networking guru.  I derive great pleasure from linking people together. I’m great at it and magic happens when I do it. I know a lot of powerful women (and men) and I know how and when to use them for my self and when to connect them with other key people.  That’s what makes me a power broker.

Hillary Clinton is a power broker.  Regardless of what you think about her, regardless of what I think of her personally, you have to give it to her.  She has a grasp of the political scene, a fearlessness that I admire, and a no surrender attitude. I’ll admit, during the primaries, she got on my nerves. At times I resented her because she wouldn’t give it up already even though it was clear she lost. But what made me resentful, also made me respect her fight.  Hillary went after what she wanted even though at times people made it hard for her.  She still fought the good fight. She made such a statement to all the girls and women of the world that we have indeed come very far and that the sky is the limit on your dreams. My proverbial hat is off to Hillary for being that woman who almost successfully went for the highest office in our land. I see her continuing to sharpen her political stronghold and a run at the seat in 2012.

Take someone like Kimora Lee Simmons.  Yes, Kimora.  Now there are some people who don’t take her very serious because she married a mogul and “inherited” her empire.  And there are people out there who discredit her business accomplishments and write her off as a gold digger.  But you know, I’ve been researching Kimora.  Her girls (two young daughters) are at the heart of everything she does. Yes she’s over the top, but I look beyond that and get to her core business and the woman gets things done. She is not a power broker because of her money, fame, ex-husband or extravagant lifestyle. She is a power broker because she manages to keep her obligation to raising her girls in step with growing her business and by going after exactly what she wants.

A power broker doesn’t need to be in the spotlight.  The two diametrically opposed examples I gave above are small examples from the extreme end of the spectrum.  A true power broker in my opinion is a woman of class, leadership, ambition, knowledge, service, energy, vision, creativity, visibility and positive attitude. A woman of power is clear about what she does and what she brings to the table. A power broker doesn’t let a perceived glass ceiling stand in her way nor does she let the small things distract her. She surrounds herself with key advisors but ultimately makes her own decisions and is comfortable with said decisions because they are her own.  She holds just as much pride in her silent power than in the in your face over the top displays of power.  When I think power broker, I think women like Indra Nooyi, Sara Blakely, Anne Mulcahy, Muriel Siebert, Sheila Johnson, Andrea Jung and Anne Fudge.  These women have risen to a level of power that took time to develop and fought all the way there to earn their spots.  Of course there are lots more out there who bring a different perspective to power.  But these are the women who stand out to me.

So how do you become a power broker?  First of all, you need to be true to yourself. Know your goals and don’t let anyone deter you from them. You need to be comfortable with breaking the stereotypes and have a thick skin.  Many people are going to hate you along the way no matter how nice or mean you are. It’s a fact.  But it’s up to you to make sure you don’t fall into the pitfalls. You must not be afraid to dare to buck the system. There’s never a straight line to anywhere. Sometimes you have to take the untraveled (or unpopular) path to get where you need to go. Dare to be different and follow your own heart. Networking and mentors are key.  Even power brokers need mentors, and relationship building is the cornerstone to success.  You know what they say about the company you keep.  Realize you don’t know everything and that in life you are always learning.  Always keep yourself open to new experiences and ask about what you don’t know. Education, self or institutional, can never be out of style. The more you know, the better you can position yourself for success.

Don’t settle, ever. If you want something bad enough and you have enough passion and fight in you, go for it! Reach for the unreachable.  Many doubters will try to talk you out of doing things. Cancel out that background noise and follow your heart.  Remember, the sky is not the limit. Leadership is a key trait of a power broker.  It is not about telling people what to do, rather, leading by example. Learn to listen to your people and find a way to bring out their best.  That’s the sign of a true leader.  And finally, check sabotage.  You shouldn’t be trying to sabotage anyone, and you need to be alert to anyone sabotaging you. Once you see an instance of potential sabotage, check it immediately. Don’t be afraid to get rid of negative people or people who don’t look out for your best interest.

I could go on and on about the role or archetypes of a power broker, but I’ll save it for my book.  I want everyone reading this blog to realize that no matter where they are in their career, no matter their station, everyone has the potential to become a power broker.  When you become a power broker, it’s up to you to use that power responsibly. Having power doesn’t mean you throw money at problems, treat people as inferiors or putting your word or opinion above everyone else.  True power comes from how people perceive you and trust me, it can be taken away at any time.

Tile next time.

Adrienne Graham