Drive it like you stole it

How are you doing? Realizing your ambitions? I often see posts on social media by women who express their frustration about the fact that the needle isn’t moving much in leadership. 

I feel her pain, but that’s exactly what ‘they’ think we’re doing anyway. 

For the record: I actually do meet quite a few men who are ready to hand ‘us’ the wheel. And I strongly believe that as long as we, women keep bashing ‘them’, ‘they’, including our allies, have no reason to make space for ‘us’. On the contrary. Power struggles excite ‘them’, even if they only watch. And usually, ‘they’ are better at it. ‘We’, on the other hand, are ready to share even that stolen car, because this is one of our values.

And does driving it like we stole it really define great female leadership?

In many places, ‘we’ have secured our right to be behind the wheel, be it by means of regulations or quotas. But then what happened? The Great Resignation. The Great Breakup. Translated: women got out of the car and ran a mile. Why? Because ‘they’ use whatever means they have to defend their spot. ‘They’ pinch our bottoms, ‘they’ sneer at us, ‘they’ steal ideas, ‘they’ interrupt us, etcetera. ‘They’ play dirty, because it works. Outcompeting the other is one of their values. 

‘Stop asking for permission to lead, promote and spend the power, influence and budget that is rightfully *yours.*,’ the LinkedIn author exclaimed. ‘We all know that the guy who held your position in the past never did. If you don’t use the power you’ve earned when you finally have it, what’s the damn point?’ 

If you follow me, you know that the ‘flaws’ she identified are strategies of our We-Mind, which we don’t recognize, let alone value. This post, like many other pieces of advice, tells ‘us’ to be like ‘them’. It tells we-minded professionals to be me-minded. And we’re not. If we were, rally cries like these would not be necessary. 

Women are not men, and should not aspire to be. By doing so, we demean ourselves, just like ‘they’ can do. If you’ve read my book, you know that I too used to be one of many women who looked down upon others who prioritize caring over earning, who are into essential oils or yoga instead of finance or IT.  I’m not proud of it. I now see that that is not only what adds color and flavor to our world, but what makes it liveable.

Not all women (nor men) want to get behind the wheel, and that is totally fine. But for those who do, here are my five cents: 

1: Don’t waste your energy trying to teach yourself to go against your grain. Love yourself just the way you are. Be true to your values. What you perceive as your flaws are in fact your strengths. 

2: Use all your power and skills (hard and soft) to make yourself seen by decision makers. 

3: Find yourself a mentor, but more importantly, a sponsor who will open doors for you. 

4: When confronted with foul play, don’t take it personally. It’s not about you, it’s about winning. Tap into your competitive mind and fight back with grace. 

5: Once you are behind the wheel, do start rewriting the rules to make the workplace more welcoming to all.   

And now, go for it!