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Wonder Women: Don't Ask for Permission to Make Big Moves

Seeking permission gives away your power to disrupt and innovate. What are you waiting for?

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Over the length of Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince evolves into the kick-butt superhero of the title. The biggest part of her evolution comes from listening to her instincts to change what’s not right in the world.

From leaving the safety of Themyscira over the protests of her mother, to standing up to military officials, to defending the women and children of No Man’s Land despite the advice of her friend and companion, Steve Trevor, Diana learns that pursuing her passion with vigor outweighs waiting for permission to do the right thing.

In most cultures, women are socialized to please the people around them and vilified when they go against the grain. The underlying message is that everyone else knows more than we do and that other people should have power over what we do with our lives. However, when you stop yourself from pursuing your dreams or doing what you believe is right in order to wait for the blessing of others, you are giving your power away.

Related: 5 Lessons to Help You Become an Industry Disruptor

Being a disrupter isn’t easy. Wonder Women don’t care about easy. They care about creating a better world. Let’s explore how wonder women stop letting others own their power and get on with the business of creating a world we all want to live in.

Favor first-mover advantage over external validation.

Tia Kansara, Ph.D. Hon FRIBA and director of Replenish Earth Limited, was raised by loving but very strict parents. Despite an upbringing permeated with fixed ideals of how women should act and the role they play, Kansara always looked to only one person for permission: herself. “For me, permission is a form of trust, confidence and self-ownership. I trust I will make the best decision when one is needed,” she says.

When you don’t seek permission to do something new, you may find yourself in lone-wolf territory. That’s the thing about unchartered waters -- there’s no precedent to guide you. Not waiting for permission to go where no one has gone before requires a level of trust in yourself where you know you have what it takes to figure it out, even when no one else thinks so.

Kansara says, “My bravery comes from being humble and knowing that I do not know and will not unless I try. What is the worst that can happen?”

Kansara’s advice to move beyond seeking permission: Don’t wait to act on your instincts.

“I believe that disrupters see opportunities before anyone does. There is something to be said for first-move advantage. If you wait for permission, the opportunity is gone,” says Kansara.

Let your mission outweigh all else.

Motivated to find a scalable way to make a social and environmental impact on the world through business, Patricia Chin-Sweeney, COO at I-DEV International, left a lucrative career in investment banking to get an MBA at NYU. While still in graduate school, she co-founded I-DEV to drive innovation in the international-development and impact-investing industry while building an alternative pipeline for investors.

Related: 9 Traits You Must Have to Execute Your Mission

“Not waiting for permission is a core value and part of our DNA. Change can be slow in this sector, but time is precious so we have built a culture of scrappy, business-savvy professionals to push the agenda,” says Chin-Sweeney.

For many, the fear of failure or rejection stops them from moving beyond a concept and creates a need for them to seek permission. In the eyes of wonder women like Chin-Sweeney, a mission has more power than someone else’s validation. “Ideas are great, but action drives learning and change. Choosing the right things to act on, and knowing the drivers of those decisions are critical,” she says.

Chin-Sweeney’s advice to move beyond seeking permission: Question your own assumptions when your desire for permission clouds your mission. She says, “It’s always important to review and reassess your assumptions and the underlying objectives you are targeting."

Follow your gut and your mind.

In a recent episode of Disrupters Unite!, my weekly Facebook Live Series on Women Entrepreneur, my guest, comedian Kelly MacFarland talked about disrupting the word ‘yes.’ One of the viewers asked Kelly if it she sought permission from her family and friends when she decided to quit her successful corporate career.

Wonder women disrupters can’t help but seek out solutions to the problems impacting many. And sometimes, that means making unpopular decisions, decisions that invoke fear and disruption in their personal and professional lives. This is where relational decision-making can either be your best ally or your detractor.

My advice to move beyond seeking permission: Change the role of stakeholders in decision-making. MacFarland’s answer spoke volumes. “If you ask too many people for permission or validation, you already know the answer you are seeking,” she says.

Related: The 3 Stakeholders That Make for Meaningful Connectivity

Instead of seeking permission, the greatest female disrupters I know transform the power and role of stakeholders. A real-life wonder woman believes in her gut and ability to disrupt. Rather than seek permission from her stakeholders, she practices empathy to transform relational decision-making from the potential paralysis of people-pleasing into a GPS to navigate her greatest barriers.

Patti Fletcher

Written By

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Patti Fletcher, Ph.D., is the author of Disrupters: Success Strategies from Women Who Break the Mold (Entrepreneur Press 2018), gender equity advocate and expert authority on how to create a culture of inclusion to drive real business results. Fletcher is recognized as a futurist; a student of the inclusive talent economy and future of leadership; an innovation-through-inclusion expert; and a writer, advisor and speaker on topics related to driving progress through people. She has been featured in Time magazine, Al-Jazeera, Forbes, Newsweek, Xconomy and The Muse and advises corporate executives and board members from lean startups to Fortune 100s. Connect with Fletcher on Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to vist the Workhuman blog for further insights.