By now you’ve probably heard about Sheryl Sandberg’s and Maria Chavez’s campaign to ban the word “bossy.”
The campaign stems from a sexist conniption about the fact that rude, pushy girls often get labeled “bossy” by their peers and other adults. Sandberg and Chavez write:
Behind the negative connotations lie deep-rooted stereotypes about gender. Boys are expected to be assertive, confident and opinionated, while girls should be kind, nurturing and compassionate. When a little boy takes charge in class or on the playground, nobody is surprised or offended. We expect him to lead. But when a little girl does the same, she is often criticized and disliked.
First of all, pushy, rude, and “bossy” guys are typically labeled much worse things—“jerk”, “a–hole,” and “douchebag” being just a few choice words that come to mind. There was always that guy in high school—the popular, dashing one who got all the attention and girls. Sure, he led the wolf pack of seniors, but did people really love him? Or were they just afraid to stand up to him?
The same goes for bossy girls.
I confess, I’ve been called bossy plenty of times—and rightfully so. Ordering my siblings, friends, or classmates around was not leadership; it was selfish. When people called me bossy, it wasn’t because I was leading the pack to success with passion, determination, and goodwill. It was because I had an idea of what I wanted and nothing was going to stand in my way.
And that leads us to the real problem with the “ban bossy” campaign: Being a jerk doesn’t equal being a leader.
For a long time, men have been in places of authority where they abused power for self-seeking gain. Some climbed up the ladder and took control, leaving many decent men behind. Our culture became so inward-focused that we defined true leadership by how tough you were, not necessarily how well you worked with others or how efficiently you got things done.
When women finally got their rightful chance to succeed, they took their cue from the men and bought into our culture’s definition of “me-centric” success where you must scrape and claw your way to the top.
*Cue bossy female executive strutting into the room.*
But that is not real leadership. That’s the stuff that births dictators.
We need to stop determining success by how well we achieve our own goals and strip the ego trip. We all know that the boss we want to work for is the man—or woman—who rewards hard work but doesn’t put up with slacking; a boss who is firm about what they want but gracious when they get it.
Bossy men are just as bad as bossy women. Just because we came on the workplace scene a little late doesn’t give us extra rights to be jerks.
So let’s squash this politically correct nonsense that gives license to character flaws, and learn how to be gracious, effective leaders whose charisma and kindness does more to promote institutional success than curt, snarky insults ever could.