Mar. 9, 2014

Bossing vs Leading!

Recently the Girl Scouts of the USA, Beyonce, Jane Lynch, Condoleezza Rice and others teamed up to ask that “we the people” ban the word “bossy” as it discourages little girls from taking leadership roles and they believe using it is equal to labeling and name-calling.  HOGWASH!

 The dictionary defines the word bossy as “Given to ordering people about; overly authoritative, domineering, high handed, officious, dictatorial, overbearing and abrasive. Leadership is described as a “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.”  A boss gives orders – period! A leader guides or directs others or organizes a group of people to achieve a common goal.  Studies have produced theories that leaders possess traits such as vision and values, charisma and intelligence – bosses don't usually receive a lot of praise for possessing these skills.

 Though “bossy” is not an attractive trait at any age, it certainly has benefit as a word in the English language to demonstrate the difference between acceptable and non-acceptable behavior. Instead of worrying about not using a word, why doesn’t someone start a movement to teach children (male and female) how to be leaders?

 The April 2014 issue of Essence Magazine, in an article titled “Rules of Engagement”, #9 read as follows:

 An essential lesson in being “managerial” for Teresa White, 47, came when she was a 25-year old manager for a credit card company. “I was the boss and I was going to impart my knowledge, telling everyone what they needed to do, “ says White, who is executive vice-president and chief operations officer for Aflac U.S., a supplemental insurance provider in Columbus, GA. It was her first supervisory position. “When I got that 360-degree feedback – a tool for identifying everyone’s view of your leadership style – my bosses and peers thought I was the bomb. But my employees thought I was rigid, didn’t listen and didn’t care about their concerns.” Their myriad complaints made her rethink how to best manage.  She responded by explaining how she planned to be a more efficient, exemplary, humane leader. “And I told them “When you see old habits, remind me, Teresa, you’re not being the person you want people to see.” They were able to exhale.” From there she kept broadening her skill set, mindful that “you don’t really have the luxury of just knowing what to do. If you’re solving problems and making decisions, you can’t live in a silo. You have to be able to sit among everyone and be inquisitive. Bottom line: Always listen and seek greater understanding.”

 Obviously Ms. White possessed the credentials to secure her managerial position, but it took complaints and self-examination for her to realize that there is a vast difference between being a boss and being a leader. I submit that realizing this difference is just as hard, maybe even harder, for boys/men to learn than girls/women.

 I have an eight year-old granddaughter, who like most 8-year old children, can be bossy when dealing with her peers and younger children, but I step right in. I explain to her that others will respect and want her to be their friend if she will include them in decisions by asking them what game they want to play or what program they want to watch. I explain that she can't just announce what she thinks everyone should do and expect them to follow her lead! I talk to her about the art of compromise and encourage her to allow everyone to have a say in  decisions so that they can all then walk away feeling good about themself. BUT I share these very same lessons with my three grandsons. I work to teach all of them about the lessons I had to learn in the school of hard knocks – that a closed mind – when you only see and put forth your point of view – doesn’t allow you to grow as a person but if you will listen to and consider what others have to contribute, both of you will learn something.

 Maya Angelou says it best, “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better”.