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The Problem with Banning ‘Bossy’

TheBoss

Yesterday, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, and the Girl Scouts of America announced their joint war on the word “bossy” in an impressive social media campaign, media blitz and content program.

The idea is inspired by a line from Sandberg’s book, Lean In: “I want every little girl who’s told she’s bossy to be told instead that she has leadership skills.”

Backing her are many familiar and accomplished women, including Michelle Obama, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Garner, Condoleeza Rice and Beyonce. Some of them appear in this PSA here:

It’s an impressive lineup, which makes you think that “bossy” might as well relinquish its spot in the dictionary right now: Go home, bossy. You’re finished.

But here’s the thing: “bossy” and “leader” aren’t the same thing, by any stretch. We can’t swap one for the other—because they aren’t synonymous.

Let’s look at the data on bossy vs. leadership—or, in this case, at the definitions:

Bossy (adjective): Fond of giving people orders; domineering.
Synonyms: domineering, pushy, overbearing, imperious, high-handed, authoritation, dictatorial, controlling

Lead·er·ship (noun): The action of leading a group of people or an organization. Synonyms: guidance, direction, control, management, supervision, superintendence

The campaign is really more about banning attitudes than banning the word, of course. In some people’s minds, “woman leader” (“strong woman”) often equals “bossy.” (Or worse.)

I understand that. But still there’s something about the #BanBossy campaign that doesn’t quite square. (And for the record: I’m still thinking about this… but this post is meant to air some of it.)

Does banning a word ‘change the data’?

Banning a word like bossy makes good headlines. But what’s missing from the #BanBossy conversation is a more nuanced, rational discussion about the nature of leadership itself. For one, not all strong woman leaders are bossy, and not all bossy women (or men!) are leaders.

In other words, I’m not sure it’s the right next step for a visible movement that’s looking to make a difference in how the world sees female leaders, and how girls and women see themselves. And I think there’s a bit of a missed opportunity to weigh in on what makes a leader to begin with.

I saw Sheryl speak in Boston a year ago. (I wrote about it here.) She was funny, smart and self-deprecating—all values I admire in someone. And I liked her book for a few reasons. But mostly I loved the signal it sent to my own teenage daughter, her friends, my goddaughter, my younger colleagues and other young women in my life (and the spirited discussion that ensued with some of them): You are capable. You are leaders. Let’s change the data that shows that, 30 years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the US, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions. LeanIn

It’s hard not to love the movement that Sheryl (and now the Girl Scouts) have ignited.

I almost wrote, “As a woman… it’s hard not to love…”

But you know what? It’s hard for any modern, thinking person not to get behind the broader themes of Sheryl’s mission. Being against efforts to balance inequities, nurture talent, and boost access and self-esteem is a little like being against literacy: There are some points that are just too dumb to argue.

Last night, I shared #BanBossy with my daughter Caroline, and her reaction was interesting: “But bossy girls aren’t leaders.”

That’s a paraphrase, but it’s pretty close to what she said. People she knows in school who are “bossy” tend not to be the kind of person who inspires others to be better versions of themselves. Which, in my book, is really the essence of a leader, based on something I read by the writer David Foster Wallace years ago:

“Obviously, a real leader isn’t just somebody who has ideas you agree with, nor is it just somebody you happen to believe is a good guy.

“A leader’s real ‘authority’ is a power you voluntarily give him, and you grant him this authority not with resentment or resignation but happily; it feels right. Deep down, you almost always like how a real leader makes you feel, the way you find yourself working harder and pushing yourself and thinking in ways you couldn’t ever get to on your own.

“In other words, a real leader is somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.”

It’s not lost on me now that David Foster Wallace refers to a dude leader. (Side note: A better word to ban might be the tendency to use “he” in default reference to any leadership role.) But I also don’t know that word-banning really changes the data much, either.

My daughter Caroline knows a little bit about leadership, too, because in her young life she’s already internalized something she studied last summer: “Controversy with civility.” Or, the idea that leadership comes less in the form of giving people orders than it does in inspiring discourse and mutual understanding. In other words, it doesn’t come from being bossy.

Maybe the #BanBossy campaign will evolve into that larger discussion. I hope so.

To be fair, there are some wonderful resources on the BanBossy.com site for girls, parents, managers, teachers and more about ways to encourage gender equity in the classroom, or modeling behavior, or media/literary-watching for gender bias. There are also some wonderful curated stories highlighting girls who are challenging themselves and challenging assumptions—like a story about a group of skater girls in Afghanistan.

In other words, there’s an attempt to broaden the conversation, but I wish there was more there on developing true leadership, instead of just attacking an adjective.

“A real leader is somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.”

In other words, there’s an ocean of difference between being an opinionated asshole and an opinionated consensus-builder.

I’d love to see more of the latter. And that goes for both men and women.

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115 Responses to The Problem with Banning ‘Bossy’

  1. Ivan Walsh says:

    Hi Ann,

    I feel their intentions are in the right place but ‘banning’ almost anything tends to backfire.

    Ivan

  2. C.C. Chapman says:

    I’m SO glad you wrote this.

    I had a similar conversation with Emily about all of this and have spent all day trying to figure out how to put my thoughts in words.

    I knew that no matter WHAT I said I’d be attacked since I was a man, didn’t know what it was really like and a bunch of other possible choices.

    Thank YOU for saying this. Now I can just share this everywhere!

    • Michael Guill says:

      My thoughts pretty much exactly. I’m a work-from-home dad raising two daughters, and we have frank discussions all the time. I was itching to put my own thoughts out there, but confident that I would be attacked for being a guy and not “getting it”

  3. I am bossy and damned proud of it. All the good that’s happened in my life is because I was willing to stand up and speak my truth when others were lost.

    This ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign is truly a blessing. It’s women who most need to stop labelling are other women as bossy, difficult or stubborn. I remember my mother saying that she didn’t understand me and how I could be so headstrong (read: bossy) We shame ourselves and that has to stop.

    I’ll be asking my clients to consider whether their materials are inadvertantly sending those limiting messages. Thanks, Ann.

    • Ann Handley says:

      Thanks, Dina. I appreciate your perspective. I agree with what you share here… and I’m glad you didn’t listen to your mother :). But at the same time, I’d like to see the focus on Leadership. Which is often very different than Bossy.

    • Jack Norris says:

      “I am bossy and damned proud of it.”

      So you push other people around/demean others to show off how “strong” you are? That’s pathetic. I don’t hace that problem.

      You don’t need to be “the boss” to have confidence in yourself. Only ignorant feminists think that. Ban bosses, don’t ban bossy.

  4. Nice piece, Ann. As usual, your assessment is right on. Thanks. Leadership skills do not include “bossy-ness.”

  5. Katybeth says:

    We were just having this conversation on FB last night. I could not really explain how I felt–you just nailed it. Two very different words. Plus, I just don’t think little brothers are going to buy it. No matter how hard Sheryl pushes her “leadership agenda.”

  6. Gradon Tripp says:

    Well said, Ann.

    As the father of a (polite, smart, and thoroughly respectful of all women in his life) son, I don’t necessarily get the opportunity to engage him in the way you or C.C. can with your daughters.

    That said, I am a strong believer in the power to be something, rather than striving to be called — or in the case of the #banbossy campaign, not be called — something.

    Real leadership comes from being someone worth following. Bossy people, regardless of what they’re called, are not worth following.

  7. Hi Ann,
    Great post. I have been mulling this over in my mind, too. Had a long discussion this morning with male and female friends about it. Truly bossy from behavior isn’t leading – and I agree with you.

    Yet, what strikes me is the incredible variance in what people call ‘bossy.’ At times, people who really aren’t bossy get labeled ‘bossy.’ What got me was ABC News night with Diane Sawyer aired a piece last night where little girls were asked if it was better to be liked or to be perceived as as a leader. One-third of those who said they didn’t want to be a leader said that it was because they feared the label, “unlikeable.” Bossy isn’t synonymous with leader of course; however, some girls who show leadership skills are called bossy (some of the girls in this piece had said they had been called bossy, so in their little minds, leadership = bossy and that’s bad. Sad, right?). And being liked was more important than being perceived as a leader. Too often bossy is used interchangeably with assertive.

    Maybe instead of banning something – a negative framing – we can just promote a positive framing around building assertive, compassionate leaders. Not as punchy as #banbossy! Gotta work on that….

    • Ann Handley says:

      Right. That’s exactly what I tried express here… a reframing of the discussion. I think you might’ve said it better than I did.

    • Elizabeth Davidson says:

      I agree it’s too simplistic a look at the use of the term- but at the same time in order to grow the change we need, having a concrete term to fight against is a far easier solution than getting into full semantics about it.

      Bossy isn’t a good leader- but I’m reminded of the times especially as a young girl, where I was called bossy for behaving the exact same way as the males in my class and expected to defer to their leadership.

      Why can’t we work on banning bossy and for those who exhibit those traits with the negative connotation of the word- find different descriptors to identify and address them.

    • KellyVB says:

      I think what those young girls were missing is the fact that if you truly are a leader, you are liked.
      I think you, and Ann, are correct in the idea that maybe what we need to focus on is talking about our words and their meanings, rather than attempting to ban words. Maybe what we need to be doing is discussing with our youth what the distance is between the word “bossy” and the word “leader”. There is a distance, and it is significant.
      If we remove the word bossy from our vocabulary, all we’ll really do is come up with a new word to describe people who feel they should have command over people or situations, but are assertive in a way that alienates the very people they need assistance and/or cooperation from.
      Why don’t we start teaching our bossy young ladies (and men) how to take the drive, determination, and strong will that they have and hone those into leadership qualities.
      Because, really, doesn’t the difference between being “bossy” and being a “leader” come down to how you make others feel? Are you making people feel agitated, confined and controlled? Or are you inspiring people to strive to do their best? Like Janet (further down in the comments) says, leadership should be about bringing other people up.

  8. Mindy says:

    Hi Ann!

    Thanks for this great post! I think that the video uses a clever linguistic device to critique the devaluing of women in the workplace, and it kinda works and kinda doesn’t work. I love your critique of “bossy” being equated with “leadership”, and of COURSE, how you weave in Carolyn’s honest response! She is awesome! Right now, I’m teaching a class called Gender, Power, Leadership and the Workplace (like that title?!), and we’re looking at different approaches to defining leadership. We just read a great book by Juana Bordas called “Salsa, Soul and Spirit: Leadership in a Multicultural Age”, which looks at leadership from the perspective of people of color, though I believe that the messages pertain to us all. The author defines a number of “principles”, which include: understanding your history and the impact it has in present day (think, the impact of slavery and the resistance to slavery, the removal of Native Americans from their land, conquest of Hispanic peoples); being a leader in community with an obligation to address the problems/needs of that community; being a leader as someone who develops leadership among others; and generally, shifting your thinking from “I” to “We”.

    Of course we’ll also be reading “Lean In”, and I find that my students are totally drawn to Sheryl’s message (even though I believe it doesn’t take into account necessary structural changes that we need to level the playing field!). We’ll be looking at the paucity/experiences of women leaders in the political sphere, as well as the critical importance of work/family issues.

    Glad you’re taking on these issues, as always. You are a fantastic leader and a great model for us all!

    Mindy

  9. Janet says:

    I am SO so glad that you wrote this! Had similar thoughts about this whole thing myself. I’m usually a big cheerleader for Lean In but this particular campaign just did not sit right with me. Leadership shouldn’t be about pushing other people around, it should be about bringing other people up. I wish the core message of the campaign focused a little more on how to encourage and include others and how *that* is what being a leader is all about.

  10. Nancy Leeser says:

    Ann, I agree with the points that you are making. I find that sometimes the momentum that ideas and soundbites get take on a life of their own. Leaning In and Bossy as good examples. I like your attempt to reframe the issue. I hope that your thoughts will enter the conversation. I’ve decided that if the keeps the overarching topic and issue alive than it’s not all bad.

  11. Joe Hage says:

    Your daughter summed it up nicely:

    Last night, I shared #BanBossy with my daughter Caroline, and her reaction was interesting: “But bossy girls aren’t leaders.”

    • Bryan says:

      Has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You are going to grow up hearing all sorts of names. Bossy is the least of them. Why can’t we just say it is political and call a spade a spade because Hilary is running for office and people have said that she has been bossy, who cares. It’s bossy to tell people not to use the word. It’s political. The word didn’t come out yesterday. Why is it now a big deal, it has been said for decades about both genders. We have now officially lost it!!! Beyoncé is a huge Obama fan and rice is as well. This is all Political and it’s sad

  12. This could have come out of my own head, thanks for writing this! Sometimes, plain and simple, girls (and/or boys) are bossy. People – especially children – need to know that acting in such a way isn’t really leadership training or a positive trait. Banning the word does nothing but sweep it under the rug in ignorance. Next we will be ‘re-labeling’ bullies as strong-willed or determined. Meh. No, bossy is bossy, and leadership is earned. Thank you for writing this!

  13. Having been a woman in the workplace for almost 40 years, working alongside both male and female leaders, I can safely say that not all leaders are “bossy,” and “bossy” doesn’t necessarily align itself with one gender more than the other. Yes, I have worked with some “bossy” individuals, most of whom didn’t last long in their position or as a leader if they’d made it that far. It is unfortunate that this “ban” is being partnered in the way that it is because I truly don’t like the idea of young girls confusing leadership and bossyness. Ann, thanks for an awesome look at this issue, and thank you for speaking out.

    • Ann Handley says:

      I appreciate your experienced perspective, Sherrey. Thank you.

    • Jack Norris says:

      The capitalist left will stop at NOTHING. Disgusting. Society had come so far since the 60s to destroy classist thinking. And a few pop stars/politicians flush it all down the toilet and brainwash poor young kids to think like it was still the Victorian era and we must all bow before “bosses”.

  14. Tim Weaver says:

    Of course, the real irony here is that she’s ordering us to ban the word bossy.

    Being bossy just means you’re ordering someone around.

    Sometimes, that’s wholly appropriate. Other times, it’s not.

    Not all bosses are leaders. Not all leaders are bosses.

  15. Lisa Riemers says:

    This is a great article thanks Ann! I think I also agree with a lot of the sentiments echoed in the above comments too.

    Being labelled ‘bossy’, ‘difficult’, ‘headstrong’ etc can all be ways to try and stop women (and men) in their tracks for success.

    Not all ‘bossy’ people, men or women, are leaders, in the same way all leaders are not necessarily good facilitators, or managers of others’ time, expectations and skillsets.

    I am however entirely behind the campaign to keep this conversation going and fire a debate, even if I am not 100% behind the sentiment. #Banbossy is a great, catchy way to continue to challenge these limitations imposed and I look forward to watching the debate unfold!

  16. Jono Smith says:

    Your thesis is that “bossy” and “leader” aren’t the same thing, but isn’t that the whole point of the campaign? In any case, it’s clearly succeeded in starting a conversation–between your blog post and the comments, you and your readers have already written 2,400+ words on this topic.

  17. Sarah Arrow says:

    In banning bossy they’ve started a conversation about the language we use around our daughters. Not all girls are confident and quite a few get pushed around by the bossy girls at school, and whilst I have a series of conversations with my daughters about this, I also have to deal with the school sending another message.

    I think Sandberg has done a great job in getting the message out.

    • KellyVB says:

      If we follow the campaign, we should be referring to those girls as “leaders”. Implying to the girls getting pushed around that the girls who are doing the pushing have a right to be pushy.
      The campaign, as it stands, is asking us not only to allow that behavior to continue, but to idolize it. That is not how we are going to build true leaders. The pushy girls need to be taught leadership skills. What they don’t need is a new term to justify their current behavior. And what we need to be teaching the girls who are getting pushed is the fact that there is a better way to be treated.
      It’s only through open and honest conversations, like the ones happening here, that we are going to really get to the root of the situation and be able to affect change.

      • Jack Norris says:

        1990′s hip hop culture was a product of capitalist-hijacked gangster-and-thug-oriented new testament Christian fundamentalist “antiracism”, (eg Al Sharpton and co.) and internalized racism. Modern hip hop culture, on the other hand, is pure capitalist bull****. The neolibs have had their way. Oh but don’t critisize…that would be “racist”. Even though political correctness is a tool of rich white men (“Bosses”) used to bully, ridicule, and censor ordinary people (People who are tired of bossiness) while hiding behind the banners of “antiracism” and “feminism”.

      • Jack Norris says:

        That and feminism’s constant attacks on “beta males” and “nice guys”… The antiracism movement filled with Baptist preachers who ask us to forgive violent criminals (“young black men and boys who are forced to join gangs”), while adding to the hyper masculinization of gang members by constantly lionizing their “struggles”, which keeps low income people trapped in a violent culture that we are not allowed to criticize for fear of being called a “racist”. You don’t think there’s some rich white men at the top getting off on all of this? I bet you the same people who run the tea party are the same people who run some of the modern feminist and antiracist movements.

        Don’t get me wrong, I think we should be a little bit more forgiving in this society, and the prison industrial complex is way out of control, but lionizing gang members while spitting on black women and poor white folks is not the solution to that, there are plenty of black men who are in prison for no reason who need to be stood up for, why Jackson and Sharpton have to stand up for violent rapists I don’t know, and I especially don’t understand why the so-called antiracist left in this country continues to support these fundamentalist Christians. I am not a Christian and so I don’t believe in forgiving tyrants. And some gang members are great people who protect their neighborhoods, however, it is low income people who should be proud of the struggles we survive, it is low income people who are shot at, beaten robbed and mugged stabbed and discriminated against by the police, not just “gang members” the way that Sharpton or Jackson would have you believe, nor is it something that only black “men and boys”have to deal with. When a poor white single mother calls the cops after her apartment is burglarized, I would bet you money that the police would arrest the poor white woman who called, NOT the burglar. Calling-the-cops-while-poor is a crime, Cops routinely arrest low income people who call them for help, the “stop snitching” movement in low income neighborhoods makes it perfectly clear that only rich people are worthy of police protection. The modern antiracist movement won’t tell you this because the modern antiracist movement only respects black people or poor people when we hurt our own kind, so that they can all call for “forgiveness”. They only look at black people or poor people as “offenders that need to be forgiven”, and yes society should be more forgiving toward ex-cons and gang members, but that doesn’t mean you need to spit on low income people and homeless people who find themselves at the other end of the stick, the people who are being assaulted by the “desperate” gang members that the antiracist movement likes to stand up for. And why wouldn’t they? Rich white antiracists get to live in safe wealthy neighborhoods, so they can stand up for gang members from a safe distance and not be affected by the chaos they create in poor neighborhoods. They also get to live in racially segregated neighborhoods so they may say things that are genuinely offensive toward black people and not have to suffer the backlash for it. Rich white liberals can even root for race rioters, they live in neighborhoods that are like 98% white so there is no threat to them.
        It’s time for real liberals to take over the scene. Bring back the revolutionary socialists like we had in the 30s and 60s, not this capitalist gangster thug Baptist patriarchal “Jesus forgives everyone, especially ‘men and boys who are forced to join gangs’ ” crap. I don’t need a bunch of rich white males screaming at me breathing down my throat telling me what to do, and I’m not going to take it from a black person or from a woman either. I am a socialist and I don’t have a “boss”. The American left can go and screw itself, if not voting for these clowns ends up winning the Republicans an election, maybe the Democratic Party should blame itself for being a corporate sellout and losing votes from real liberals such as myself.
        I would also bet you money that Sharpton and Jackson would stand up for the burglars just like the cops do, not because the woman is white, but because she is low income and there is a war against poor people being fought in this country. People who stand up for “young black men and boys who are forced to join gangs” are fighting on the side of the rich against the poor, because gang members are class traitors, they may be forced into being class traitors and it may not be their fault that they are in that position, but that’s what it is. Gang members are house servants who are there to keep other poor people hooked on drugs, and culturally, hogging hyper-masculated “respect for surviving the struggle” which should belong to all low income people, not just a few gang bangers who represent a small percentage of the black male population. I am against the war on drugs and I am against the prison industrial complex, and I hate most of the evil police in this country more than most black people do. I said most, I’m sure there’s one or two good cops here or there but the system is straight up evil. Of course cop privilege is something that upper middle-class white liberals don’t like to talk about, even the criminal sympathizers in the Sharpton/Jackson camp never actually point the finger at cops. but now that the term upper middle-class privilege and cop privilidge is circulating, the house of cards set up by false liberals in this country will soon collapse.

  18. Kirsten says:

    The word bossy does not need to be banned. I think the real issue is with peoples misperceptions of a girls assertiveness as being bossy. I have seen the term bossy used by both male and females, children and adults, as a way of shutting down a discussion and quieting down the “offender” (usually a female) to get their OWN way. So I don’t have a problem with the word itself but more with it being wrongly applied in a situation for which it doesn’t apply and instead being used as a weapon to break someone’s confidence and self esteem.

    • Lisa says:

      Well said Kirsten! I agree the word itself is not the problem. It’s the way in which it has been applied almost exclusively to females for my entire life. If “assertive” and “bossy” were used correctly and uniformly for both genders the discussion would be mute. They have been used as weapons for a long time, one to ascribe a positive attribute to males and the other a negative attribute to females for the same behavior. If we could get everyone using assertive as the positive attribute of a leader regardless of gender the word bossy would simply fall back into its true meaning. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…it’s most likely a duck!

      Thanks for a great post Ann! The discussion is fantastic and everyone is making great points! Love it!

  19. Doc Robyn says:

    Ann – Thanks for continuing this very important conversation.

    I like that #BanBossy is creating awareness. I wish it was around something positive and teachable. I founded the Stop The Drama! Campaign (StopTheDramaNow.com) because of the huge gap in how we “allow” girls to behave (copying the gossip, backstabbing and catty behavior they see on reality TV) and the skills they need to be successful (effective communication, conflict resolution, leadership, teamwork).

    Banning a word isn’t going to provide young women with the skills they need. Teaching them how to be leaders will.

  20. Pingback: There’s No Need to “Ban” Bossy. We Should Close the Confidence Gap Instead. | Red, White & Grew™ with Pamela Price

  21. Jennifer says:

    Hi Ann,

    Just wanted to say you’ve hit the nail on the head with this post.

    I was trying to articulate this difference the other night as I saw the campaign, and you’ve summed it up perfectly. I couldn’t agree more about the difference between someone being overbearing and someone who is a real leader. Moreover, I love your sidebar about banning the use of “he” as the default reference for those in a leadership role (always grinds my gears to see that one).

    I once heard that a leader is someone you’d follow into the dark and I think that’s a good standard. It’s similar to David Foster Wallace’s gut-feeling definition in that it’s more about the person who can get you to be braver, stronger, or simply more productive than you were without their influence.

    Thank you for gettin’ the conversation going on this one. I was kind of afraid everyone heard Beyonce and nodded their heads in complete agreement on the ban. Glad to see that’s not the case :)

    • Ann Handley says:

      Funny thing about the “he” in the David Foster Wallace quote — I read that a long time ago, and the pronoun didn’t jump out at me. This time it did… so I guess my consciousness needed raising, too. :)

  22. Thanks for posting. I had a draft simmering for my own blog that approaches the #banbossy campaign with similar concerns. Your courage in speaking up sparked me to speak up, too.

  23. Maggie Buerger says:

    I agree! Being bossy doesn’t equate to the leadership skills. And being the boss doesn’t mean you have to be pushy and tell everyone to do things your way.

    When someone, usually a male, tells me I’m bossy, I correct them that I’m just being assertive. That’s how I see myself. I’ve been in leadership positions, but I didn’t think of myself as bossy. I just had to be decisive and encourage people to work together.

    But each of us can’t be the leader. Some of us will be really good followers. Being a good partner is just important a lesson for young girls as teaching them leadership skills.

    (This was my first visit to your blog. I’ll be back tomorrow.)

    • Ellen Harger says:

      I like your suggestion to comment with a different word. I’m not bothered by bossy but allowing someone to use it in a demeaning way doesn’t help. Assert yourself with positivitiy!

  24. Ellen Harger says:

    I won’t mince words and tap-dance. I think this sort of thing is thin-skinned. There’s intention but it’s … well, it’s bossy.

    I’m bossy, but I’m secure enough to know that just because someone uses it derogatorily doesn’t mean I am insulted. That’s their issue. I’d rather see strong woman show others how not to let the pettiness of another affect you rather than be petty, too.

    The #bossyban is bossy and I don’t take well to be being bossed around. Be a leader. It takes more skill.

    Ellen

    • Ann Handley says:

      I had to read that three times before I got it — but I do like “the #bossyban is bossy”! (Lot of bossy bits to parse in that sentence…LOL)

      Thanks for weighing in, Ellen. I appreciate it.

  25. Sandra BK says:

    I took a different stance on this and actually support the #banbossy campaign, but I really enjoyed your post and you make some good points. I don’t think that the problem is really whether bossy girls are leaders, the problems is with name calling. We should not call girls who ARE leaders a name that is meant to be a put-down. That is the point. When a child already knows that the word bossy is derogatory, then we should know that is something we do not want to label our children with. The point of this campaign was to empower people and bring awareness to how children can be lifted or diminished based on what we say to them.

    Good post and I will be sure to check your blog again. :)

    • Ann Handley says:

      I liked it at first, too. Then the more I thought about it…. well, not so much. For the reasons I said here. But either way, I do like the thoughtful discussion this post and others have sparked… which is a great thing. “Controversy with civility,” as my kid says.

  26. Maral says:

    You know, heard about this on NPR and had a bunch of thoughts too, but you nail it with this one:

    “In other words, there’s an ocean of difference between being an opinionated asshole and an opinionated consensus-builder.”

  27. CalTay says:

    I think Sheryl and team hit the mark….getting people to talk about girls and how they are viewed. The point is bigger than agreeing or disagreeing with someone who is taking steps to help girls and women succeed. Before this article got your panties in a twist, what were you doing to contribute to build girls confidence, or to help advance female leaders in our society or across the globe?

  28. Very thoughtful post. I just wrote a brief article on “Lean In and Lead On: Should We Ban Bossy?” I did not address the question in as much depth as your article, I think you make some really good points. I do believe that Sheryl Sandberg and the Lean In organization have focused a great deal on what excellent leadership should look like, and how women can become true leaders in many sector. i think have also spend a great deal of resources and energy encouraging and inspiring women to fulfill their visions and passions. I think this particular campaign is designed to bring attention to an attitude that is quite prevalent and supported by labels and language. So far, it seems to have sparked quite a vibrant conversation about the topic, so I think it’s serving a great purpose to see more young girls and women reach for their leadership potential.

  29. Thank you for writing this. As a dad of three boys, with the oldest one being “bossy” all the time to his little brothers, the campaign seemed a little off to me (probably because we call him bossy all the time). I discussed their campaign with my wife last night and we agreed that their intentions were in the right place, but banning a word doesn’t necessarily accomplish that.

    Also, my wife is an early childhood teacher and says she often jokes that the “bossy” kids will be “a good leader someday” (she never calls them bossy, boys or girls).

  30. Susie Kline says:

    Excellent post echoing something going through my own mind since I read about this. I’ve raised boys, not girls. So my perspective is different. But boys are called “bossy.” And in negative ways. It’s being conveniently forgotten to make the campaign’s point.

    Your daughter’s comment about bossy girls aren’t leaders is spot on. In either gender, there’s a meanness and a bullying that goes along with being bossy. That is something that doesn’t bode well for a leader with longevity and results.

    Now I have more to ponder. Thank you!

    • Leslie says:

      THIS! Thank you. The thing that has absolutely grated me about this campaign is the willingness to throw little boys under the bus.

      Yes, bossy boys ARE called out on their bossiness every day. And if a little boy gets too bossy with his peers, he might just find himself getting feedback from his peers of the physical variety.

      Being bossy is not being a leader.

      I have found that bossy children are often intolerant of their surroundings. Rather than adapting to their surroundings or learning to process frustration, they are compelled to make everyone else adapt to their preferences.

      Do I call out young girls on this behavior? You bet I do. Just as I do young boys. A tyrannical dictator should not be lauded as leadership material (just my opinion here based on the hundreds of children and adults that I have worked with).

      Leadership is not grounded in gender or even personality type. Take charge children (or adults) often make horrible leaders. Some of the best leaders that I have worked for have been quiet and reserved. But these are people who have inspired me to do my very best.

      It’s time that we start understanding what true leadership is. And more importantly, what it is not.

      Thank you for speaking on this topic, Ann, as well as stating your reservations. I agree that there is a great deal of improvement to be made on inspiring young women to take up the banner of leadership.

      I just feel that this campaign in no way addresses the source of the disconnect. And that is a sad waste of leadership potential.

  31. Just made me remember how many times I was called stubborn as a girl. Apparently Ii was very stubborn about ‘doing it myself.’ And oh yeah, stubborn about thinking I could get better grades than my brother; stubbornly refused to give in to peer pressure and start getting stoned in high school…well the list goes on.

    However I’m pretty proud of that stubborness; I stubbornly refused to give up when my husband had an affair and walked out the door leaving me to raise two children alone. Gosh I was stubborn about them getting good grades and getting in college and even in them treating me respectfully when they thought that time had passed that they had to! Seems that instead of thinking I was labeled in a detrimental way I decided to take ownership and show them what stubborn was.

    It seems despite dictionary references, people can have different takes on the meanings of words; hell you could call me bossy and I would be OK with that. Sometimes I’m the one who has to get the damn job done and if that’s the case than damn it, sometimes I am BOSSY!!

  32. TV says:

    Here’s the thing, women and men, girls and boys have been socialized to see women and girls demonstrating leadership as being bossy because it makes them uncomfortable for a woman or a girl to be like that. It doesn’t always happen and it’s getting better, but women leaders are still often perceived differently. I’m guessing no one is completely serious about banning “bossy.” What they are doing is trying to change the perception of budding female leaders. That being said, I don’t disagree with your contention that bossiness is different than leadership. However, I would guess that girls are labeled as bossy at much higher rates than boys and that’s the real problem–our discomfort with women and girls who exert leadership.

  33. Tobias Schremmer says:

    I have to believe that all these intelligent, educated celebrity women behind this campaign are aware of the critical nuances around bossy v. true effective leadership that you so effectively point out.

    I’d pivot off your last comment re: “…not as punchy as #banbossy” and suggest that they wanted punchy above all. They are seek to provoke discussion, and they realized that something like #letsdevelopmoregirlsasleaders or anything “nice but uncatchy” would never stir the pot.

    • Ann Handley says:

      I get that, T. But I do think that getting Beyonce et all behind #StrongWomen or #StrongLeaders could’ve been as effective. Discussion is good. I wanted more as a next step, in other words.

  34. Ann, I have shared this post because as someone who’s studied leadership — and someone with children — you have astutely touched on the missing context to this movement.

  35. It’s like you took the words right out of my mouth, Ann!

    I’d also like to see us focus on the language of BOTH genders. The other day, my son had his 15-month checkup and cried when I put him on the scale. The nurse attempted to soothe him by saying, “Don’t cry. You’re not a girl. Only girls cry. You’re a boy.” I know I should have said something, but I was too shocked to speak. I didn’t want to be “bossy.” So I said nothing and regret it now. Like Sandberg, I was told often as a child to not be bossy, so I hesitate before I share my mind. I’m not sure which is more difficult in life: polishing the rough edges of bossiness or removing the thick layers of self-doubt.

  36. Tili says:

    I wanted to point out that the leadership development does happen. That is the entire point of girl scouts. The conversation is happening in every troop meeting and every event, with the exception of those troops with bossy adult leaders helping to guide the girls in the wrong ways. These poor leaders are the exception we find everywhere, and in fact, exemplify the whole, “bossy people aren’t leaders” example you give, because these women don’t stay leaders for long.
    The campaign is girl scout PR- using marketing to “make the world a better place,” (part of the Girl Scout law) by starting the conversation with a larger audience than just troop meetings and events.

    • Ann Handley says:

      Yep — I get that, Tili. I was also a Girl Scout leader for a few years, so I’ve seen the great leader development that happens there. GSA is a wonderful organization.

      At the same time, I wish the marketing was igniting a different conversation… is my point.

      Thanks for chiming in.

  37. Brianna says:

    Ann, you exploited a nit to make your own place to shine in a strong woman’s shadow. The entire point behind “Ban Bossy” is that leadership is not the same as being “bossy,” and yet many women and girls who express leadership are (incorrectly) labeled “bossy.” Your daughter is simply stating the obvious, so criticizing Sheryl Sandberg for not “boiling the ocean” at the outset of fighting this huge problem is counter-productive. Clearly, Sheryl knows a thing or two about how a movement starts, and it’s not by overwhelming the masses with in-the-weeds details they are not prepared to process. Your entire premise seems to hang on what your daughter sees as bossiness versus leadership “at school,” to which I cannot attribute serious consideration. Finally, you are not doing professional women any service by likening their intellect to that of a school-age child.

    • Ann Handley says:

      Wow, Brianna.

      First: Thanks for chiming in here.

      Second: I don’t think I was criticizing Sheryl as much as suggesting that she might’ve used her enormous influence and personality to ignite a different conversation. I give her a ton of respect for sticking her neck out on this issue. She certainly didn’t have to, and I wrote in support of her here: http://www.annhandley.com/2013/04/07/some-thoughts-on-leaning-in/ Suggesting I “exploited” her or the situation is a bit harsh — I’m expressing my own thoughts on my own site. Not sure what’s exploitive about that.

      And — for the record — many children do have wisdom, despite their lack of experience. But still, I wasn’t dismissing anyone’s intellect in any sense. If that’s what you took away… well, not sure what else to say.

      Again, appreciate your perspective here. Thank you.

  38. Leadership means stepping up and being willing to take charge, especially when no one else seems to want to. This past week, I learned how much people are willing to support you in that role as well, if you are willing to give it a go. I was asked to run for State office, and in a short period of time, people came out of the woodwork to help get the signatures needed to make this possible. What I’m learning is that it was easy for me to volunteer and do for others, but it was initially uncomfortable to have people do all of that for me instead. But this was the aspect of leadership I needed to learn the most- it’s not about bossy, but it’s about willing to take the slings and arrows of being in the lead, while also giving up complete control and trusting others to help and do what they do best at the same time. Leadership can feel really risky, but at its heart, bossy has very little to do with it. Bossy is wrestling with control. Leadership is about everyone pulling in the same direction, and making something new and great together.

    • Ann Handley says:

      You have a unique perspective on this Whitney — because of your recent efforts. So thanks for lending your experience.

      Your point about “slings and arrows” is a good one. I thought about NOT publishing this post because I worried about coming across anti-LeanIn and harshly critical of a woman trying to make a difference (as some commenters here have suggested). It’s easier to not say anything… but I’m not that’s what anyone (you, me, people everywhere) needs.

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  40. Doug Kessler says:

    Great post.
    The comment thread alone tells me that #BanBossy is a great idea.

    There’s no way a #GirlsCanBeLeadersToo campaign would get this kind of resonance.

    As a father of two girls, I totally support the campaign. ‘Bossy’ is just one of the thousands of ways that the world tells girls to moderate their ambitions. It’s not the adjective, it’s everything it stands for (in this context).

    • Ann Handley says:

      True, Doug. But I was looking for a different conversation as a next step. As I told Tobias above, perhaps #StrongWomen or #StrongLeaders. I wanted motivation in a different sense — and a different context. Think of Nike’s #FindYourGreatness program as a model. That.

      • Doug Kessler says:

        I do see your point. Bossiness is not the same as leadership. (And what do we tell girls who really ARE bossy?)

        I just think it’s a clever way to point out that girls get different feedback from boys for very similar behaviors.

        For me, ‘Ban Bossy’ means something like, “Before you use words like ‘bossy’ for a girl, ask yourself if you’re applying a double-standard.’

        Or it’s shorthand for, “Ban making girls feel bad about wanting to be leaders.”

        But if that’s not coming through and it sounds like the campaign is really trying to ban an adjective, maybe it’s missed its target.

        I’m just glad someone is out there making this point. And I think ‘Lean In’ should be required reading for everyone, regardless of their genitalia.

  41. Christy Cole says:

    This piece is spot on in every way possible. I love it.

  42. Andi says:

    A direct report once told me I had nerves of steel. When I think about all of the high pressure, quick-turn action our team has had to take, and whiplash decisions that no doubt made me sound bossy, this was a compliment of the highest form.

  43. Dana Ironside says:

    Hi Ann! I can’t thank you enough for writing this post. I kept screaming this at the tv when I saw a commercial and then when people are posting this on FB likes it is all fantastic – I keep saying WAIT, NO! Bossy people suck. I just wrote this last night before I read your article on FB to a friend: The one thing I don’t understand is – isn’t bossy (whether male or female) not really leading – it’s telling people what to do instead of being the example and doing the do? No one likes to be told what to do – they want to think it was their idea! I find this all very baffling. Kudos to you for putting it out there in a stronger way. I so want them to think more about what makes someone a great leader and not just how to tell people what to do! #bossysucks #leavebossyalone

  44. Elaine Bell says:

    I was having a hard time deciding how I felt about this campaign, and I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what made me uncomfortable. You articulated it perfectly here, Ann! Bottom line: I’m glad to see Sandberg and the Girl Scouts have triggered an important conversation.

  45. Amanda B. says:

    Great insight, Ann. My initial reaction to this campaign was to roll my eyes and mutter under my breath because the whole thing just felt a little cheap. But the more I thought about it, I realized that in order to actually start a dialogue around important topics, sometimes we have to yield to the most effective message/median for our target audience (even if it feels gimmicky). My ideal utopia would have this dialogue floating through businesses across America without having to use a punchy and somewhat shallow slogan like “Ban Bossy.” Unfortunately “Let’s have a rational discussion about an important underlying mindset in corporate culture that perceives women as bossy” doesn’t sell or get shared or tweeted.

    So: no more rolling my eyes or hiding Beyonce’s face when she pops up on my news feed. Why? Because for the greater good, the campaign is working and giving me something to talk about with people at the gym who might not have otherwise even considered the underlying issue in the first place.

    Cheers!

    • Elizabeth Miller says:

      “My ideal utopia would have this dialogue floating through businesses across America without having to use a punchy and somewhat shallow slogan like “Ban Bossy.” Unfortunately “Let’s have a rational discussion about an important underlying mindset in corporate culture that perceives women as bossy” doesn’t sell or get shared or tweeted.”

      Couldn’t agree with this more. Sometimes you have to market a rational discussion, something that, for all intents and purposes, should be discussed inherently by the public. #banbossy is catchy. And…as illustrated here, has started discussion. So even if I flinched at seeing Beyonce lead a campaign against bossyness…I think it works. I also think that this article and all the comments attached should become a resource on the website so all sides of the conversation are represented.

    • Ann Handley says:

      Right — good point, Amanda.

      I felt like “Lean In” started this conversation a year ago, though… so this effort felt a little off for me, because I thought it wasn’t a great next step. In other words, I felt like the momentum was already there…. so why not do something more substantive with it? This controversy has stirred up a lot — but is it really going to change the data? That’s the fundamental question that inspired this post.

  46. Katie says:

    Hi Ann!

    First I want to say thank you for posting this. I can see a lot of thought went into it and it’s a discussion well worth having.

    One thing I wanted to add my $0.02 on is maybe this sort of slides by the point a bit, meaning to say – both you and Sheryl are saying the same thing.

    You started with a definition of “bossy” and “leadership” to show that they’re not the same word, and how the connotations of each are so different. I think that’s exactly Sheryl’s point. When a girl’s called “bossy” it carries a lot of negativity with it.

    The second point you’re making is whether – in some cases – the negative aspects of “bossy” are warranted. If someone’s being an asshole versus showing leadership. I think that’s fine. But what we see is that this word is almost exclusively reserved for women. Think back to school, did you have a boy in a class project who was overbearing and rude and definitely not being a leader? Probably, yes. Did you call him bossy? Probably, no.

    And those two things make the problem. 1) if a girl IS showing appropriate leadership, she can be mislabeled “bossy” 2) if a boy truly is BEING bossy, he is not called such. So now we have a negative word that is almost exclusively misused and the result is a growing perception problem. Girls afraid of being “bossy” start lowering their hands, look to a boy for ideas when she already has her own, etc. etc.

    I’d say there’s no real argument for bossy. Language is important. Connotation and social context is important. You can say “gay” is just a word but you know when people say “that’s gay” it’s negative and that has a harmful affect and that’s why polite and advanced society would frown on it’s use. Bossy is the same. It’s just a word – but it’s one that when used is causing a harmful impact to a particular group over any other. So why keep it?

    You mentioned several synonyms that have less gender nuances that we can easily use instead. So why not #banbossy and use “asshole” when appropriate instead :) or if that’s not appropriate we can go with: domineering, pushy, overbearing, imperious, high-handed, authoritation, dictatorial or controlling!

  47. Tema Frank says:

    You nailed it, Ann!

    Let’s hope that the days of women in leadership feeling the need to be “bossy” in order to climb the corporate ladder are mostly gone.

    And, as one of the other commenters pointed out, if you ban that word, people will simply use others to convey the same, negative message.

    Maybe we need to give it a new meaning, as the husband of a business-owning friend of mine did when she told him she’d overheard someone calling her a bitch. “Of course you are, dear,” he reassured her, “BITCH stands for Babe In Total Control of Herself!”

  48. I believe that bossy children are trying to exert authority, by copying what they perceive adults or authority figures doing and/or by trying to exert influence (usually) over their peers. When it’s done improperly or doesn’t come off well, they get called for being “bossy”. It is part of development.
    “Bossy” is generally perceived as negative when applied to either gender and implies that some skills like influencing, providing direction/instructions, coaching need to be improved.
    Yes, these are related to leadership, but the fundamental issue is poor communication.
    I admire the intent of the campaign, but feel the execution falls short.

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  50. The campaign is directed primarily to middle school girls( and their advocates) who get labelled , get worried about their likability and then start chasing likability instead of being themselves. If they are trying to control others, put it in those descriptive terms and teach them to persuade and influence instead. The real question is what is the impact of these labels on girls at a vulnerable point in their development? This conversation is not about the nuances of adult leadership.

    There should also be a campaign for middle school boys where when they show sensitivity to others they are not labelled as a “girl” or as a “baby” or as a “wimp” or whatever is the current derogatory term for sensitive boys. Both genders need to be taught at this age how labeling hurts them. Both kinds of labeling contribute to low self-esteem and poor adult leadership outcomes. Teaching boys that being thoughtful and empathetic of others’ feelings will make them a stronger leader is also worthy of a campaign.

    I think the point is being misunderstood. We know that this happens in middle school because we have the research to prove it. Labels are hurtful and don’t address the problems we have in society and also don’t teach kids about how to hold onto their strengths until they can develop them into healthy behaviors.

  51. Greg Francis says:

    This campaig just seems like a successful attempt to bring its authors into the spotlight. It’s been blown up in the media to international level, when there are so many other stories that deserve attention.

    First of all they’re framing it as a sexist issue when the author constantly insisted ‘bossy’ is a word that is almost always applied to females. In gradeschool, boys are called bossy just as much as females, if not more. At my school people called boys bossy all the time. I remember being a target of the label numerous times. As adults, people use more offensive words to describe overbearing people, so its not as often used by adults.

    Second, people keep banning words. This is the era of banning words. Let me tell you a little secret. You can ban words, but that doesn’t change the malicious intentions behind them. It just drives them deeper, and makes them more difficult to address. People just assign negative connotations to new words. Take for example the word ‘retarded.’ It was once a medical term, now deemed offlimits for politically correctness. Instead, it’s been replaced with ‘developmentally disabled.’ Kids use the word retarded because to make fun of developmentally disabled people’s behavior, because they don’t yet have the understanding to know better. Now they’re going have to mutate another word. Guess what? We’re going to have a real problem when they start using the word ‘disabled.’ Some already do. ‘Special ed’ turned to ‘special needs’ about 20 years ago, and that’s already been adopted as a gradeschool insult. How about tackling the thoughts behind the words instead of the words themselves. Words should only be banned if their original usage is derogatory, like some of the racially charged words.

    Third, back off with the hashtags. These morons think we need another hashtag in this world. I think I’m going to vomit. Hashtag, ok, that explains everything, it’s more tabloid, gossip, gimmick, propaganda that screams, “Look at me now! Forget me tomorrow.” Sorry to inform you, but I didn’t look! You’re relegated to the trash can with all the rest of the narcissistic, neurotic, offhand, celebrity and wannabe garbage.

    Have you made enough money off your campaign yet? Good. Then step aside and make room for something worthy!

  52. Ruth Zive says:

    I dunno, I think Sandberg is on to something. I have four daughters. And one son. I’ve seen the whole ‘bossy’ thing play out. My son would never call another boy ‘bossy’. Only the girls. My daughters also seemed to understand implicitly that the bossy label was intended for girls.

    I think that what’s problematic is society’s instinct to label assertive, ambitious and opinionated girls as ‘bossy’. They are discouraged from taking charge or telling people what to do (even when they are pretty good at it).

    And more often than not, when boys do the same thing, they are labeled as leaders. I don’t think that Sandberg is calling for a ban of the word ‘bossy’ without a corresponding support of girls as assertive leaders.

    We have to get rid of the double standard. The flip side of the same argument would be calling boys ‘sissies’ when they are sensitive or gentle. And we’ve seen campaigns against this tendency in recent weeks.

  53. Greg Francis says:

    When NPR hosted Sandberg’s TED talk men responded in droves saying they had been called bossy as youth. I can’t remember any educator in my life who encouraged boys to be demanding while discouraging the same behavior from girls. Boys learn assertive behavior more from their fathers and their peers telling them they aren’t a real man if they arent assertive. Let’s face it. Many behaviors are still hardwired into us from our ancestral roots. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just solve all of our problems with administrative changes to our schools? You can’t blame all of the problems of our children on their teachers. Much more of our behavior is learned from and modeled by our parents.

    Blaming the words is just a cop out. It doesn’t solve the problems in the least. Labeling is bad, I agree with you. So teach kids not to label others. Ban a word and they’ll replace it with another, and politicallh correct people will come up with something stupid, like ‘developmental directive oriented youth syndrome.’ Mark my words.

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  55. Mary Aviles (@connect4mary) says:
  56. Patricia Justel says:

    Hi Ann,
    I love your blog and your post. They are great! sorry for my english…
    On this topic, I think maybe the campaign try to denounce that women leaders are treated and considered often and unfortunately like bossys, when they aren’t and when men leaders are considered like leaders in equivalent role. I mean, independently of how the woman leader is, they are seen like bossys without any real reason. Maybe the campaign denounce that. It is very true that bossy girls are often not leaders, but many girls who are leaders removes motivation because they are considered unfairly bossy. Uff, it seems a tongue twister! :)

  57. Greg Francis says:

    Based on my experience there was little to no guidance on leadership skills in gradeschool and middle school. Students were invariably picked as team leaders by their peers either because they were good looking, charismatic, or popular. If they had those skills, it was presumed they were good leaders. Other students that did not possess those skills were never given the chance to cultivate them, nor were they encouraged to explore them.

    While Sandberg seems like a nice woman, the premise of her campaign is a farce. It introduces a false issue of sexism and feeds the 21st century war of buzzwords, both of which takes focus off the real problems. The real focus should be on leadership, exploring the implications off it, and cultivating effective leadership skills among youth.

    If we want to have a war on words, don’t forget ‘nerd’ and ‘geek.’ Those two words were used mercilessly in the 1980′s as synonymous with outcast and lame. 30 years later nerds and geeks are the heroes of society, and everyone wants to be one.

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  59. The goal is to reecognize “bossy” as the slur to young women that ir is. For me it’s worked. When I hear “bossy” now applied to a woman or girl I pause.

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  63. Clémence Morel, Tulane student says:

    The topic of this post is so interesting! I do understand your point of view, but I think this campaign is well-designed, the youtube video for instance is catchy and positive, not aggressive or bitter. Even though there might exist a definition problem regarding the word “bossy”, it is so important to highlight the feminine leadership issue, which is still today a taboo The general message of this campaign is “be proud to be a woman who succeeds in her career, and don’t be afraid of the stereotypes”. It would be such a huge step forward if all the little girls could grow up with this belief…Thank you for sharing this campaign, and writing about it!

  64. Greg Francis says:

    I have had at least a dozen jobs in my life. Seven of my bosses were women. Cetain feilds are dominated by women. For example, child care, nursing, lower education, retail, food services, baristas, house cleaning. Men are far less likely to be hired in those positions, just like construction and waste disposal are dominated by men.

    Women also fare very well in business. According to the US Census Beaureu, female owned businesses grew at a rate of 44%, while male owned businesses grew by 22% during the same time period from 1997 to 2007.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s still disparity between male and female wages in the workplace, most of which is perpetuated by a good old boy network of high level execs. Keep in mind all it takes is one male CEO to throw off the statistics for the whole labor market. What Sandberg fails to note here is that men are also marginalized and held down by this process.

    Sandberg does make a case that might be convincing on the surface. She goes to TED and on NPR with discussions filled with anecdotal tidbits and wild supposition to paint a portrait of an economy overwhelmingly hostile to women, and at the crux of it is this word that’s reprents a concept she claims is only applied to girls. One fatal flaw of her argument is that her campaign is largely void of any evidence or statistics. She expects people to take her word for it as an experienced leader.

    What she fails to tell us is that she is part of that old boy network. She isn’t a Lilly Ledbetter who has been crushed beneath the weight of a traditionalist, sexist work environment. She isn’t a Chris Hedges who was willing to go to jail for what he believes in. Sandberg is part of the elite, and she has the wage to prove it. It is a wage handsomely fortified by book revenues from a book she used this campaign to market under an egalitarian guise. If Sandberg were really interested in helping she wouldnt be out pushing books. Instead, she would be giving up a small fraction of her wage to open up more junior exec positions for women at her office. She would start a free training program for women in leadership. Lastly, she would stop framing this a sexist issue, because sexism is always blamed on men, even though they are often victimized by these same issues. If men are always part of the problem, they can never be part of the solution.

    She frames it as a problem where only women are victimized by a system that drills them to aspire for less.

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  67. Ken says:

    The ban bossy campaign is indeed misguided. Bossy people, male or female, do not win followers and they are not leaders. Bossiness (being dictatorial, being overbearing) just builds resentment and is a shortcut to trying to win a position of authority. But most people recognize it as illegitimate authority. The women’s movement should not cheapen itself by embracing this false concept. Study real women leaders, like Angela Merkel. She is wise, understanding, patient and magnaminous. If women want to be leaders they must study examples like this, and not resort to motherhood tactics. You may be able to boss your kids around, but never your peers.

  68. Taylor says:

    Thank you Anne,
    I couldn’t agree more with what you said.

    I am the father of 3 daughters and a son. I expect all of my children to be leaders. I will say that one of my daughters has a problem with being bossy, and I have been trying to figure out how best to help her learn a better approach to leadership.

    Though bossy is not a word I often use, I feel it is the best adjective for a certain type of behavior that is contrary to leadership. Bossiness comes from a position or sense of weakness, lack of confidence, or frustration. It is what we resort to, when we don’t know what else to do to get people to do what we want them to do.

    Is bossiness effective? Unfortunately, yes it often is, but it has major drawbacks, and you will never reach your full potential as a leader using bossiness as one of your primary tools. I would say it is a tool of last resort. In fact I think most people recognize it as such, which further reduces it’s effectiveness, and undermines your authority. Bossiness also embodies and communicates a lack of respect, which is destructive of relationships, teamwork, and the spirit of cooperation. Worst of all, bossiness has a tendency to ignite feelings of anger and resentment.

    While I believe that bossy is a useful adjective for describing a category of behavior in general terms, I feel it would be improper to use the word as a label for any person. I feel it does little good, and perhaps some harm to tell someone to stop being so bossy, because it is not sufficiently specific in describing the actions of a person you wish to inspire to employ better actions. In fact the main problem with such a statement is that it is completely absent of instruction about what “to do”. The very act of labeling someone bossy is akin to bossiness itself, in that it is an approach of laziness, and ignorance.

    In order to effectively help someone improve their behavior, I feel it is best to stick to describing their specific actions at a specific time, and propose alternatives, and practice them.

    The question that remains, and the direction that I think the discourse should follow, is as you have begun with this article, “What are the characteristics of an effective leader, and how can we create an environment that fosters the development of leadership?”

  69. Jack Norris says:

    More capitalist propaganda from the neoliberals in the hijacked American feminist movement. Hypocrites.

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