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When Sheryl Sandberg came out with her book, “Lean In” it started a conversation and then a movement encouraging women and also young girls to embrace their inner bossy attitude. The idea is that little girls who are bossy, grow up to be great leaders.

I honestly don’t agree with this at all. This conversation has created a whole lot of confusion about the difference between leadership and being bossy. In fact, Sandberg has created a whole campaign around it.

This topic is often on my mind because I spend a lot of time with children. I adore children and enjoy spending time with my friend’s children. Bossy children are easy to spot. “Go over there!” Give it to me!” “Come here!” A bossy child is one who is demanding and is not using their manners. For children with which I have permission from their parents to correct, I’ll reply with, “Please come with me over there.” “Please share it with me.” “Please come here.” Let me tell you, it doesn’t change dependent upon gender. Both boys and girls can be bossy. This is not a behavior you want to let go. You want to nip it in the bud. If you don’t then these children turn into adults who are inconsiderate and downright rude who are a pain to interact with in the workplace or work with in any compacity. You definitely don’t want to be friends with these people. You know who I’m talking about. I guarantee you are already thinking of a handful of people.

President John Qunicy Adams described leadership like this, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” What a difference that is from being bossy! I am all for encouraging and fostering leadership in young girls, but this is very different than being bossy. People who are bossy do not inspire people. They may motivate people, but not in a positive way. More in a fear-based way.

I think that at the root of this is a misunderstanding of the real meaning of words.

Leadership= To go before or with to show the way; conduct or escort;to conduct by holding and guiding

Bossy= Given to ordering people about; overly authoritative; domineering.

See how these are different?

As a communications and journalism major in college, I believe that words are important. They mean things! Equating the word leadership with bossy is frankly so silly. It’s much like the overuse of the words amazing, wonderful, etc. in our society. When you really look at the true meaning of these words, you see that they shouldn’t be used so frequently. I am the first to admit that I do this too much myself. This is an area where I need to grow.

We need to encourage leadership in young girls. We need more women who are strong leaders. This doesn’t mean excusing bad behavior with the idea that being bossy is a good thing. It’s not.