Is It Bad To Be a Bossy Woman?

Bossy woman
Is it good to be a bossy woman?

There has been a lot of talk about bossy women lately.  Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is leading a formidable group of successful women, including Condoleezza Rice and Girl Scouts CEO Anna Marie Chávez, on the banning of that word to describe women.

Their purpose is admirable.  We sometimes use the term “bossy woman” when a female takes on a leadership role traditionally held by men.  I’ve heard of other women leaders, such as Hillary Clinton described by another B-word that probably means about the same thing.


What if she actually is a bossy woman?

I agree that just because a woman is in a leadership role, that’s no reason to call them bossy. But what if she is actually just bossy?

The underlying message these successful women are communicating is that men can get away with being bossy and escape the label.  People just do what the men say. That indicates to me that people give credibility to bossy men while they hold bossy women in disdain.

That’s unfortunate. But the problem with that is that both men and women should strive to be leaders, not bossy.

Bossy is not leadership

Bossy is management not leadership. Managers push and manipulate – and boss – people.  Leaders establish a vision and pull a group of people in a common direction.

Bossy is weakness. Leadership is strength.

Bossy in insecure (aka arrogant). Leadership is confidence.

Bossy is authoritarian.  Leadership is collaborative.

Bossy people try too hard to gain credibility while leaders naturally earn it.

Credibility and respect – call it followership – cannot be demanded. It must be commanded. “You will call me Mr. Sauder and you will respect me, damnit!” just doesn’t work.

It’s hard for me to believe that Ms. Sandberg, Ms. Rice, or Ms. Chávez got to where they are by being bossy.  Aggressive? Most likely. Leaders? Absolutely. I can’t imagine they attained their respectable statuses by simply bossing people around without being excellent leaders.

After reading Ms. Sandburg’s book “Lean In”, I know that she’s not advocating women to be bossy, she wants them to be leaders. (Full disclosure: I did not read her book, I listened to it on Audible)

See my related post: Bossing Around: The Next Best Thing to Leadership

It would be very unfortunate if young female future leaders got the message that it’s okay for them to be bossy; that people just need to quit giving them the label.

Young female future leaders (not to mention young male future leaders) need to learn that leadership, which is very different from bossy, is a much better way to earn respect and get things accomplished.

I’m sure that Sandberg, Rice, and Chávez all know that. I just hope their campaign doesn’t send the wrong message.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Because it’s not alright for women or men to be bossy.

Related Posts
The Illusion of Control
I live what I believe to be a typical existence of a family man in the suburbs.  On a typical weekend, I’ll get together with friends, drink a few beers, ...
READ MORE
Motivation: Positive and Negative Incentives
When I was in high school, I had a fantastic U.S. History teacher.  He had us subscribe to Time Magazine and we were required to read an editorial from the ...
READ MORE
Are You Purchasing Effective Tools?
I’m pretty handy around the house.  My workshop has a decent supply of tools and I can fix and maintain most of the issues that occur in my home. If something ...
READ MORE
Feedback Loops through the One On One
Managing teams in any environment is a challenging undertaking.  You’re trying to accomplish some goal as a team. But each member of the team has their own individual goals that ...
READ MORE
Management Flexibility: That’s Not How I’d Do It
There is an age-old debate about how the toilet paper should roll for most efficient dispensing.  One school of thought says the paper should roll up from the bottom while ...
READ MORE
Playgrounds, Checklists and Making Things Idiot Proof
An article in the New York Times from July of 2011 entitled "Can a Playground Be Too Safe?" discusses the trend over the past few decades of making playgrounds safer.  By ...
READ MORE
Do You Have Too Much Reliance On Process?
I remember growing up, watching my mother put recipes together.  She was meticulous in making sure that her measurements were exact.  And the meals she prepared were predictably consistent. A reliance ...
READ MORE
Bossing Around: The Next Best Thing to Leadership
Over the years, I’ve worked under many management styles. I’ve reported to managers that were so command and control that I questioned every decision I made, wondering if I was ...
READ MORE
Tell Me Again About Your Great Leadership
We’ve all probably experienced great leadership.  Leaders that we enjoyed reporting to, were mentored by and maybe even developed a friendship with over the course of our careers. You may have also had ...
READ MORE
On Being Bold: Step on the Gas
A few years ago, I purchased a classic car – a 1975 Oldsmobile Delta 88 convertible.  It’s been a fun car to drive around town on nice summer days.  It’s ...
READ MORE
The Illusion of Control
Motivation: Positive and Negative Incentives
Are You Purchasing Effective Tools?
Feedback Loops through the One On One
Management Flexibility: That’s Not How I’d Do It
Playgrounds, Checklists and Making Things Idiot Proof
Do You Have Too Much Reliance On Process?
Bossing Around: The Next Best Thing to Leadership
Tell Me Again About Your Great Leadership
On Being Bold: Step on the Gas