Don’t Ban Bossy – Be a Leader
No need to ban "bossy"
There's a difference between combating stereotypes and banning a word, isn't there? Like Voltaire, I may disagree with what you say, but I’d defend to the death your right to say it. Promoting women’s leadership doesn’t require banning words or silencing dissenters. If it does, then the cause of the supposedly oppressed minority has in itself become the oppressor.
As a woman, I’m offended that Sheryl Sandberg and her followers think that the thought police need to protect me or I will lose all ambition, for fear of being called names. The sad fact is, being a great leader doesn’t always mean you will be well-liked, ask Abraham Lincoln, Gloria Steinem, or Steve Jobs. Anyone who is dissuaded from leadership by being called “bossy,” shouldn’t be taking up that mantle in a world where real leaders of freedom from Chinese political prisoners to Malala Yousafzai, are routinely shot when they try to create positive change. Banning the word bossy might provide a temporary shield against the sometimes harsh, sometimes unfounded insults of others; but it certainly won’t bring us closer to a first woman American President who would make me proud. I’m sure Margaret Thatcher and Melissa Mayer would understand exactly what I’m talking about.
A leader needs a thick skin
In fact, banning bossy only reinforces the idea that women have thin skin - which, if you follow my argument - isn’t exactly a great quality for a leader and hurts women’s advancement in the workplace. Our ongoing survey examines what professional skills and obstacles prevent women MBAs from achieving their career goals. Both men and women agree that ingrained stereotypes and double standards in the office are a problem. But banning bossy just further reinforces these stereotypes. It addresses the double standard only by creating another one.
I assume this campaign is inspired by the idea of ending the “r” word (retarded) as a reference for mentally challenged people, as well as those that aim to the use of words like “slut” that are usually specifically used to derogate women. Calling a woman or girl bossy is certainly not on the same level of insult. The level of shame it conjures up just isn’t the same.
If a woman is being called bossy, then she probably has no mental deficiency, nor does she have a problem going against stereotypes of women as innocent, submissive beings. The point of being bossy is that you have some sense of how to assert yourself, right? At the least, you threaten other people enough that they want to call you names, a backhanded compliment in itself.
I think we should take a page from Sheryl Sandberg’s core message and “Lean In” to bossy.
- Find strategies of learning how to deal with others better and lead through cooperation rather than be perceived as dictators.
- Go out and talk to those who criticize us rather than banning their criticism.
- Learn how to better deal with our feelings when people call us names so we can solve problems with a clear head.
- Embrace our inner directors.
- Deal with reality as it is, rather than complain about how life’s not fair.
s stop being bossy and start being leaders. Even if that means letting people call you bossy.
Click like if you have ever been called bossy!
Found that interesting?
Learn more about our services
Make your dreams a reality with a professional evaluation of your career to date.
The evidence is in. More women in your company can deliver 35% greater financial returns. (Catalyst)
Dates for the Diary
November 12th European Commission DG GROW
Informal talk on how to deal with sexism - 12.30 - 1400
November 25th Council of the European Union - Corporate Event
How to deal with sexism and harassment in the workplace
Download and listen free podcasts
How to Create an Effective USP What is a USP? Our Unique Selling Point or UVP (Unique Value Proposition) is our key core message about where...read more
How to Rethink the Modern Workplace for Gender Equality New research shows that diversity and inclusion is a top priority for leaders. So why...read more
Menopause in the workplace In this podcast with Nicki Williams award winning author, keynote speaker and Founder of Happy Hormones for Life,...read more
How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace Nancy Milton, international business communications expert, keynote speaker and author, share some vital...read more
Taking Care of your COW Tanvi Guatam, international Personal Branding expert says there is a misconception out there that a personal brand is...read more
The importance of Hard Talk Dawn Metcalfe, author of Managing the Matrix and Hard Talk, shares with us tips to achieve the lasting communication...read more
When Does Female Rivalry Turn into Sabotage There’s a lot of stuff written on social media about female rivalry and competition between women. Some...read more
Goal setting tips to boost your career The happiest people are those that really love their jobs. Those that don’t, dread Sunday nights and...read more
Sexism: How to stage a Bystander Intervention in the Workplace In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions...read more
How to Get Noticed by Head Hunters & Recruiters In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions asked multiple...read more
To overcome negative self-talk, we need to break out of the low self-esteem cycle that keeps us trapped low instead of reaching our full potential.read more
A company might sound like they are diverse and inclusive, but make sure to do a thorough investigation into gender washing.read more
It might not be apparently obvious how a consensual relationship can turn someone into a poor brand ambassador, but we need to take into account the power structures at play.read more