Have you seen stuff going around in the last couple months about bossy little girls? This quote definitely had it’s moment in the spotlight getting passed around on social media:
* Cue dramatic music and smiling faces of sassy little girls after reading that quote *
Aren’t you so inspired?
I mean, every little girl who is bossy is obviously a budding leader-in-training! We should encourage them to be the boss and follow their dreams! They should stand up for themselves and take charge! Be ambitious! Be loud and in charge!
Grumpy Cat says it best. When I first started hearing about this whole idea of encouraging bossy girls to embrace their innate leadership capabilities, I was like:
“Why?” you ask. Let’s first take a look at what bossy means:
Being bossy means I don’t care about about your opinion. It means telling you to do something right this second with no ifs, ands, or buts. It may mean raising my voice to get my point across. It means being powerful in a way, because I can control you. You have no say. It’s treating you as a means to get something done, without respecting your dignity as a person.
And that, my friends, is not okay.
From personal experience (as a person who can be bossy), I can tell you that it hurts people. Everyone deserves to be listened to, and being bossy is the opposite of that by definition. My leadership skills are at their worst when I’m bossy, because it means resorting to my position of authority to get people to do things. But leadership is so much more than that. Having a title is the least important aspect of being a leader, and it becomes wholly unimportant to people who have great leadership capabilities.
Leadership is about being someone people follow – not because they are docile little lambs to fetch you grapes and Italian olives from Venice, but because you have a message they are invested in. You have something to say, maybe something you’re fighting for, and people who have similar motivations are going to join forces with you if you show the ability to take your cause to the next level. Leadership is making a difference and having people lend a hand because they want to, not because you guilt-tripped them into coming, or bribed them with cookies. Believe me, I’ve done that. And it doesn’t work too well because it coerces people to come. It doesn’t empower people to be an integral part of your mission.
When we tell our little princesses that being bossy is okay because it’s just their leadership shining through, we’re telling them a lie. Because, quite frankly, the “light” from bossy people is burning my freaking face off.
People deserve to be listened to. If I’ve learned anything over the last 1.5 years serving on the leadership team of Ravens Respect Life, this is it (and yes, a lot more). I used to go auto-pilot into “let’s get this done ASAP and since I don’t trust anyone else to do it right I shall do it myself” mode. Nobody told me blatantly to knock it off. Nobody told me it was annoying in all the years of “leadership” throughout high school.
I wish they had.
For years I’ve been a person who doesn’t wait for other people to get things done. Some people would call that ambition or me being a “go-getter”. I certainly am ambitious, but in the last months I’ve realized how messed up this idea of being my big, bad empowered self is. Why? It’s important to make sure people know you value their opinions. Even if you do have the final say, leaders have to let other people contribute to the cause. If they don’t, it becomes a dictatorship: you controlling people, not building a movement together. That doesn’t value other people. It doesn’t build trust. And it certainly doesn’t make anyone a skilled leader.
A skilled leader listens to followers, and you know what? They have amazing ideas . . . things I could never have thought up. They have skills and abilities you are not good at. They just might blow your mind.
The people I’ve worked with have taught me this, and I am so thankful. It’s humbling, and a constant reminder that I am not the boss. And I really don’t want you to shut up. I want to hear your ideas and work with you to make the world a better place. You have ideas I don’t have, and together we can do more than if we went our separate ways.
So, what are we to do about this bossy phenomenon? Instead of praising this attitude of bossiness, let’s teach each other how to value each other (and the people who follow us or we are followers of). Listen. Don’t interrupt. Work together. Read about real leadership: the power to influence other people. Learn how to tell good stories which will inspire people. Be able to empower people to contribute to your cause.
Being a real leader is better than bossing people around. It’s so much more.
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3 thoughts on “I’m the boss, so ya’ll can just shut up”
A tough balance for sure – I am in the process of trying to teach my 10 year old daughter the difference so your post was very timely for me…..
Thanks, Debbie. I think a great way to learn about good leadership is to learn from people who already have those skills. I would highly recommend reading stories with your daughter and then discussing how the person displayed virtues leadership. Why did people “follow” that person?
Mother Teresa is a great example because she was a great leader but wasn’t pushy or “bossy”. Martin Luther King Jr. too, because he didn’t boss people around. He inspired them. Even Pope Francis would be interesting to talk about. He is so gentle, but has one of the biggest following I’ve ever seen. I know there’s a book on his leadership, which I’ve been wanting to read!
I bet you’re doing a great job talking with your daughter about this, and I know learning from people who are better leaders has been invaluable to me. Best wishes!