In Control: the Common Belief of Successful Women

Although most women can identify with the feeling that at times their lives are a little out of control, successful working women typically share a common belief about control.

internal locus of control for success you have control The Way Women Work

They believe in an internal versus external locus of control.

What does that mean?

“Locus of control” orientation is a psychology concept originally developed by Julian Rotter in the 1960s that refers to an individual’s perception about the underlying main causes of events in her/his life.

Working women with a high internal locus of control believe that their success is affected by their own actions. They are generally more achievement-oriented and self-confident, think that they can influence or fix situations, and believe that they can positively affect outcomes at work. In other words, they are in control:

They believe that their own actions are key determinants of their success in the workplace.

A common behavioral pattern I have observed among my female clients who struggle to be successful at work is that they usually blame it on other people: they explain a lack of performance, results, or career goal achievement as owing to other people (like their boss, employees, peers, or customers) or to events (like the market or the state of their industry), rather than looking to, questioning, or changing their own actions. I would describe these women as having an external locus of control.

In contrast, I have met female entrepreneurs and corporate employees who work in parts of the world like the Middle East, where the workplace and societal norms seem to be stacked against them, who talk about their ability to succeed or fail as being largely to do with what they personally do or don’t do. These successful women and many others all over the world believe in an internal locus of control.

Less anecdotally, some research* on locus of control has found the following trends:
  • Males tend to have more of an internal locus of control orientation than females.
  • As people get older, they tend to believe more in internal locus of control.
  • People higher up in organizations tend to have more of an internal locus of control orientation.

So, a critical prerequisite as you journey on the path to your success is to begin by looking inside yourself and asking whether you have an internal or external locus of control.

If you believe you can do a lot to impact your own success, you will be more likely to achieve it.

If you are not sure of the answer you can take a quick interactive locus of control quiz at MindTools. If you believe you can do a lot to impact your own success, you will be more likely to achieve it.

*Mamlin, N., Harris, K. R., Case, L. P. (2001). A Methodological Analysis of Research on  Locus of  Control and Learning Disabilities: Rethinking a Common Assumption. Journal of  Special Education, Winter

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