Beginning in childhood we are taught that we can’t act on our own. We have to wait for permission from our parents and other adults with authority.
We are also taught that best people – the smartest, most educated and most experienced – rise to the top of our businesses, organizations and institutions. We believe that these people have earned the right to do what they want and have the power to control the actions of those under them.
We are taught to believe in top-down systems.
Women and other disadvantaged groups are told that we need to be empowered – that those at the top need to write laws, rules and policies that grant some of their power to us. They have to give us the right to have more self-determination over ourselves. We have to prove ourselves worthy so they let us move up.
As a result we were conditioned to wait for permission.
But what if I told you that while men support the top-down system as a group, they don’t believe in conforming to it?
Unlike us, men believe that as soon as they turn 18 and become legal adults they are fully empowered. They have self-determination. They don’t have to ask permission. Men will exercise their empowerment unless a law, rule and policy specifically limits it.
This is the complete opposite of what women are taught. We are taught that “the system” oppresses us and won’t let us exercise our empowerment.
But are you sure this is true?
Or is this just what you are conditioned to believe?
If you want to do something do you ask permission of the person in authority? What do you do if they tell you “No?” Do you immediately back down? Or do you challenge:
“How are you going to stop me?”
From my experience working with and managing men, I can tell you that men immediately challenge any restriction because they interpret it as limiting their empowerment and self-determination.
Actually most men don’t even ask for permission. They just go and do what they think is best. This is because men value their right to do what they want, how they want, when they want. They value being autonomous.
This is the real reason why men want to rise to the top in an organization. At the top they have more autonomy. To men this more important than having the power to control others. (Men know how difficult it really is to control other men so they don’t try.)
This is one of women’s greatest misunderstandings of the male-dominated workplace. Consequently we have given much more power to the system than it really has.
Even worse, we embolden those people who have control issues to abuse their positions of authority. When they do, it reinforces our beliefs in the power of the system and that we aren’t empowered. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Men understand how not standing up for their right to exercise their autonomy erodes their autonomy. Therefore, they look at situations by asking – How is this going to affect my Autonomy?
The real reason your boss or the person of authority tells you “No” is because if they say “Yes” then you erode their autonomy. Initially they may put your request at the bottom of their priority list hoping you won’t follow up. But as do follow up and question how they are proceeding on your request, you impact their priorities – you erode their autonomy.
For them it is often easier to tell you “No” right from the beginning or challenge you and make you drop your request.
Have you ever considered what would happen if you didn’t ask your boss for permission? What would happen if you exercised your autonomy to do what you think is best? Would your boss get mad?
Probably not. The male-dominated workplace follows the rule:
“It’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.”
It tells us we are empowered to act according to what we think is best. It assumes we are capable employees who sees something that needs to get done and will take the initiative to get it done correctly. If we screw it up, then we will hear about it.
For many women this type of autonomous behavior is difficult. We don’t like just going off and doing something on our own because we know whatever we do impacts our colleagues. We want to make sure we don’t adversely impact them. While this consideration makes us more hesitant to act, it is also a good thing. It is a concept that is needed in the male-dominated workplace where too many men act on their own and create problems for others.
Women recognize that we have to coordinate among our colleagues. This is something women are really good at. It is also beneficial to us because the male-dominated workplace interprets it as exercising leadership.
Acting with empowerment, autonomy and coordination, our leadership enables us to step up to solve problems and resolve issues. This in turn takes problems off our boss’s plate which he then interprets as us increasing his autonomy. He likes people who increase his autonomy.
As women, we have to abandon much of what we’ve been taught about the power of the top-down system because it artificially holds us back.
Instead we need to see our workplace through the autonomy and the right it gives us to step up, assert our judgement and do what is best. When we grab this empowerment, we also grab the opportunity to achieve. This makes us great employees and great leaders.
Please read my related article Leading From Within – A Leadership Style For Women
Empowered Women Do What Needs To Be Done
To learn more about how women can grab their empowerment, check out my new book.
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