Playing to your distinctive strengths is vital to personal disruption. We covered this accelerant in episode 120, and I hope you’ve taken the time to consider your own “superpower.” Today’s episode is focused on distinctive strengths, but with a bit of a twist—instead of focusing on your own, we’re going to discuss the inherent value of the distinctive strengths of others.

My guest today is CV Harquail, author, consultant, speaker, and self-proclaimed “change agent” who’s life’s mission is to create a world in which all people flourish. CV wants to help leaders think differently about the relationships between business outcomes, organizations, and the individuals that inhabit the systems we create. Her new book, Feminism: A Key Idea in Business and Society, examines the role that feminism could and should play in the organizations and businesses.

“We have a world that’s designed around this idea that men are better than women and that men should control and direct women…[a]nd the neat thing about feminism that most people don’t yet realize is that feminism uses the concept of gender to expose this fallacy of some people being better than others…And because they are better, they should have power over others. So feminism really questions the way that we’ve structured power in our society, and says that there are better ways to think about power and better ways to organize together to get stuff done that matters.”

CV is simply not programmed to follow the “status quo.” Her mother, an advertising executive, was active in the feminist movement, and taught her to question everything and to recognize that the world should be a better place. Her father, an entrepreneur, taught her that if she didn’t have something, she could build it.  From a young age she knew that she wanted to help everyone be treated equally, but as she progressed in academia it became more challenging than she anticipated.

“[O]ften when people or perspectives challenge the status quo, the status quo turns around and says, “Show us the alternative fully formed—Show us the fish that’s able to live on land, not the fish that’s able to swim better in the water….”

Undaunted, CV continues to look for the good and inherent value in others, and works to share her message with anyone who will listen. She sees the distinctive strengths of each individual, and encourages everyone to talk about how we can make small tweaks in the workplace to “acknowledge every person’s humanness.” Join us as we discuss CV’s parental influences, her journey in academia, and how unearned privilege needs to be recognized and named as such for society to move forward.

This episode is the second part of a seven-episode series celebrating the re-release of Disrupt Yourself by Harvard Business Press on November 12, 2019. If you like what you hear, please leave a comment! Tell us about your superpower.  Listen in the player above or download the episode on Apple Podcasts.

Takeaways from this episode:

  • Feminism challenges the idea that men are fundamentally better than women. It changes the way we structure power. There are better ways to get stuff done that matters.
  • CV’s goal is to have businesses and organizations look at the conversations in feminism and realize that they’ve been ignoring or cherry-picking the ideas, but if they will sincerely examine it they will see opportunities to be an ally and improve how their organization gets work done.
  • “We live in world where the very definition of equality is diminished to make it less powerful.” American culture focuses on equality of treatment under the law, when It needs to focus on the idea that we are all equally human, and equally in need of respect.
    “[H]ow do we treat people if they’re all valuable equally, but they all show up in this world different?”
  • “[T]he goal of feminism is actually to create a world in which all people flourish. Because all people are treated as equal humans and all people’s differences are recognized and kind of part of the equation of how we honor them.”
  • Unearned privilege is when the systems around us give us “wind” to carry us forward, despite not having done anything to deserve it. We recognize that hard work gets us where we want to go, but we often don’t notice the current pushing us forward at the same time.
  • In order to become fully realized human beings, we need to “have access to all of the qualities that make us human, all of the qualities that make us capable, all of the qualities that make us communal and caring.”
  • The traditional business model financially rewards individuals for doing work within the (physical) boundaries of business. However, much is done outside of those boundaries to create productivity and profitability. There is much work that gets done that is never acknowledged and never paid because it is relationship building (a characteristic classic categorized as feminine).  What would happen in business if we broadened our view and rewarded all aspects of business building, including relational or emotional labor?
  • We have been powerfully programmed to view leadership through a masculine lens. Let’s not be afraid to rebuild our perceptions and businesses to a model of leadership that incorporates other wonderful things we are trying to achieve. Focus on tiny shifts, or “micro actions.”

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