Lately, I’ve been seeing lots of news surrounding the word “bossy” and young girls. You see, according to some of today’s female leaders, more specifically, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, women can still get ahead without being bossy. Well, let me be the first to tell you that some of my first bosses were not necessarily bossy. Crazy maybe, bossy, not so much.
You see, the problem with today’s young girls is that by telling them they shouldn’t be bossy, they instantly feel defeated. If they are confident about a decision they’ve made or a cause they want to support, they now need to be nice about it for fear they will be judged for being bossy.
However, if they are not taught to be assertive, strong and independent — all qualities of a good boss, they may miss out on the opportunity of becoming a great leader. Sure, there are women who succeed in their chosen profession by being nice to everyone around them, but trust me, when you are nice, people walk all over you and it takes a helluva a lot longer to make it to the corner office.
I still remember my initial impressions of the female bosses who trained me to become the boss I am today. The first was smart, bossy and fiercely independent. She scared me but gave me the opportunity to grow, perform to the best of my abilities and shine. My second boss was nice, a little bit crazy and pretty indecisive. Then there was the boss who was flighty, a little bit nutty and she ate the top of a chocolate Entenmann’s Cake every morning. She was also skinny as a rail and quite a character. I really liked her – she never made me feel bad — she was bossy, but she gave the women in my office the chance to grow and shine and she called out the ones who just didn’t cut it.
My next two bosses had a different style. One was bossy, incredibly tough and super smart. While there were times I could do without her tough love approach to the workplace, she made me better at my job and never settled for mediocrity. The other boss was a soft spoken perfectionist who in the end was incredibly kind. My fourth female boss was super bossy, accusatory and a bit crazy. After that experience, I realized that some of the best bosses I had in my career were men. Why do you ask? Well, they were direct, honest, they expected the best from their team and when we delivered, they praised all of us for our hard work and dedication.
I know it’s pretty antiquated that I believe men are better bosses but many women who are leaders in the workplace do themselves a disservice because they don’t know how to instill confidence in other women. They think that by belittling staff members or making them doubt themselves is the best way to get them to perform to the best of their abilities. Instead, the tactic backfires and the employee typically resents the boss and plots their exit strategy the moment they feel like their work performance has come into question.
In my experience, those bossy bosses were the ones who actually made me a stronger employee and more confident in my abilities. When I admitted that I was feeling insecure about an upcoming project, they pushed me to do my best, gave me honest and insightful advice, bossed me around a bit and cheered me on when the project was a success.
On the flip side, the bosses who were crazy felt threatened when I succeeded in spite of them. They questioned my work and sadly, made me doubt my abilities so that they could re-assert themselves and their position within the company. When a boss is crazy, there is no rhyme or reason to their behavior or their actions. They are jealous. They are insecure and they are territorial. Are they bossy? Perhaps, but honestly, I would rather have a boss who is confident and direct in their approach than one who is a total pushover. That’s what I was for a very long time and oftentimes, I was taken advantage of by others because they knew they could get away with it.
Nowadays, I find myself taking the bossy approach when faced with work that is not up to my standards. However, at at the heart of it, I try to encourage others to do their very best. I love watching my team and my students succeed and helping them get there along the way. I jump out of my chair and give my team members high fives when they land a hard to get media placement. And, I am genuinely happy for the success of my fellow female bosses.
If you’re a female boss, let’s make a promise to one another. If your bossiness inspires your team to succeed, then I say go for it. Don’t be a pushover, don’t give up and whatever you do, don’t ever become a crazy boss! Encourage your staff to become great leaders by sharing your experience, offering guidance and not making them feel bad when they fail. Be bossy but be smart and kind. After that, the rest will fall into place.