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CONTROLLING OR IN CONTROL? HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE

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“My manager, co-worker, partner, friend, brother……. told me I was controlling!”

Never met a woman who hasn’t been called controlling at least once in her life. For many of us, it’s a monthly event. (I confess that for me it’s a weekly thing).

Rarely does it not affect us.

Often we simply shake our heads in disbelief, knowing that were we men exhibiting the identical behavior, we’d be told we were ‘powerful’, ‘in charge’, a ‘true leader’.
Unfair? TOO. BAD. For now.

If you think I’m making this up or waving the gender card, you can stop reading now because that’s not what this is about, and this blog isn’t for you.

My intention for writing about this cringe-worthy subject is so that women who are truly committed to cultivating their leadership skills and having a positive impact, can learn to distinguish between the power of control and the disempowerment of being controlling. And to adjust both their reaction to and their use of, both words. People spit out, “She’s so controlling” with the same venom as “She’s a feminist.” Disgust. Contempt. A “Well that explains everything” kind of air. Think ‘affluenza’.

The problem lies not only with those who use the word but, equally, with our listening to it.

Our current culture allows people to say whatever they want and, if they say it with sufficient vigor, their audience assumes it’s the truth. Case in point: political debates and someone calling you controlling.


That is a flawed assumption. But, of course, you knew that.


People can call you whatever they want. You don’t have to listen. You don’t have to believe them. You don’t have to react.


Here’s the distinction:


When we are controlling we exert our power over others for the primary purpose of getting them to do our bidding. This disempowers you (not them).
When we are in control, we are using our power for the sole purpose of creating our personal and professional lives in alignment with our greatest vision of ourselves. This empowers you, and the people for whom you’re a role model in support of, and for, ourselves.

You do, however, owe it to yourself to do an internal check to discover if there’s something for you to see.

Were you controlling?

  1. Did you want everything to go your way, for whatever reason you might have made up?
  2. Did you feel empowered?
  3. Do you now cringe thinking about it?
  4. What was the experience for the people around you? The ones you’re committed to developing?

Were you in control?

  1. Did you speak your truth in a way that people could hear you?
  2. Did you identify a goal and strategize a way to achieve it that would benefit all concerned? (Note: ‘all concerned’ may not yet see it that way).
  3. Did you take action in a way that empowered you and everyone touched by the project/idea? (Note: ‘everyone’ may not yet see it that way).
  4. What was the experience for the people around you? The ones you’re committed to developing?

SUMMARY: If you’re leaving bodies wherever you go, there’s a high likelihood that you’re controlling. If, on the other hand, others leave you feeling empowered and impactful, (despite perhaps feeling ruffled and shook up) then you have been in control). Congratulations!

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WomenThink™ partners with leaders of public, private, and non-profit global organizations to transform their female workforce into a high-performing LeaderForce™; attracting, developing, and retaining the best female talent as a result of creating an uncommon culture of equitable empowerment.

 For more than 29 years, WomenThink’s CEO, Nancy D. Solomon, has been a force for change and the go-to women’s leadership expert in traditionally male-dominated industries such as technology, banking, and finance, worldwide.

 She is a bold, courageous, and unapologetic advocate for women and has helped thousands remove the barriers to their fulfilment and success.

 As a result of their work with us, our clients build and sustain a vibrant, robust force of female leaders, equipped to manage the helm, and the highest offices of corporations across the globe. Our clients include Microsoft, Target, Acura, Amazon, Nordstrom, Wellpoint, and Westin, as well as many passionate individuals.

 Schedule a meeting with us to begin the conversation of how we can accelerate your current transformation initiatives, as well as identify the future of leadership for your organization.

Known as The Impact Expert, she is the main stage speaker, expert trainer, and veteran coach who helps leaders solve key issues related to leadership development, employee engagement, and advancing women. She is the author of the acclaimed book: Impact! What Every Woman Needs to Know to Go from Invisible to Invincible and is currently working on her next book.