Bossiness is NOT leadership: 8 Distinctions Between Being a Leader and Just Being Bossy

Integrity Time is an elementary school program that teaches children about character and choosing "what is good and true and right". I, along with other moms, teach a new character lesson every week. When I saw this week's lesson is on Being Bossy, I thought, oh this going to be good. As I am reading over the lesson, I got a dagger through my heart when I read that I am supposed to tell the kids "Being bossy means to consistently tell others what to do."
That's not being bossy.

The next line thankfully was more accurate. It says, "[b]eing bossy means to be controlling and selfish. 

Now we're talking.

The lesson goes on to describe the perils of being bossy and gives some very good tips on how to deal with bossy people. Now I know what you are thinking. It's a kids lesson so maybe they were trying to keep it simple. Perhaps! But it got me thinking about the way we talk about being bossy in our workplaces.

Make no mistake. Bossiness is NOT leadership.

In fact Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In has a popular quote going all around social media. They are memes and text quotes that get liked and shared all day long. I admit I have even shared a couple of them. It reads...

"I want every little girl who someone says 'they're bossy' to be told instead, 'you have leadership skills."

But Susan Lucas, Inc.com contributor, disagrees with Ms. Sandberg... and after seeing how a children's character development series describes bossy, I have to agree with Susan. 

In her article, titled Bossiness is Not Leadership Lucas writes:

"Bossy girls are sometimes queen bees--with their little minions following after them. This mimics leadership, but it's not. Queen bees attain their positions of power by tearing other girls down, by instilling fear, and by being the prettiest, or the one with the best clothes. These girls are masters of manipulation and persuade the adults that they are just that--leaders. But anyone who has ever been a victim of one of these "bossy" little girls knows that it isn't leadership.
What's more, bossy women like to keep other women down. "

If bossiness is not leadership, they what is leadership? Lucas gives 8 differences between leadership and bossiness. 
  • Leadership is inclusive, not exclusive. Bossy thrives on keeping people out of the inner circle.
  • Leadership listens. Bossy says "listen to me."
  • Leadership hands out praise to others for success. Bossy takes all the credit when things go well.
  • Leadership takes responsibility for failure. Bossy blames others for failure. It is never a bossy person's "fault."
  • Leadership lifts others up. Bossy wants to keep others down, because otherwise someone might take over the top role.
  • Leadership prepares for a future when there is a new leader. Bossy wants to ensure there is never a new leader.
  • Leadership makes sacrifices for the good of the team. Bossy wants the team to sacrifice for her.
  • Leadership is humble. Bossy is prideful.
In light of these distinctions, I say we revise Sandberg's quote to 

"I want every little girl who someone says 'they're bossy' to be told instead, 'you have leadership potential. Now let me show you what a real leadership is'!

What do you think of the list of distinctions? 

This BRAVE Living blog post is for the woman who knows she is called to an even greater level of leadership, influence,  and money, yet can't figure out how to do that day to day. Get 7 Communication Mistakes Women In Leadership Make to understand what might be holding you back. Click here to get it.


Fast food or Gourmet: Which leader are you?

If you had to describe your leadership style, would you be a gourmet leader or would you be a fast food leader?

I was listening to a marketing seminar about attracting the right people. The presenter asked us to examine our website copy to see if we are presenting our services as a fast-food or as gourmet. It was a great question that got me thinking a lot and I wanted to present it to you.

First let’s talk about the difference between fast food and gourmet food. Fast food is uses cheap ingredients to produce a quick meal. It is common. You can expect the food taste the same no matter where you go. The burger in North Dakota will taste the same as the burger in Florida. Fast food tastes good going down but proves not to be good for you later. The flavor of the food is predetermined. It is good in a pinch but it’s not something you can live on perpetually.

Gourmet food on the other hand invokes a different feeling. It is made with high quality ingredients. The reason behind the ingredients is just as important as the ingredients themselves. Gourmet food is  custom and uniquely special to the restaurant, the region, or the chef. It is about the experience. Gourmet food custom blends flavors together so that it’s consumer can experience a new oral sensation. Gourmet food leaves you feeling satisfied not just full.

As you read those distinctions did your mind start listing the difference between a gourmet leader and a fast food leader?

Fast food leaders

Fast food leaders see people as commodities that can easily be switched out. People are ingredients and fast food leaders don't look for quality ingredients. They'll take whatever because they don't value people. An example of this comes from one of my favorite action movies, The Fast and Furious  6. The villain, Owen Shaw, gives his take on team: “A team is nothing but pieces you switch out until you get the job done. It's efficient. It works.”  Even though the man saying it was a cute British actor with an accent that would make one swoon, the truth is his view on his team is of a fast food variety. Fast food leaders view humans as commodities that can exchanged, replaced, and debased as long as the job gets done.

Fast food leaders keep the status quo. They do not value nor to do they look for diversity in their team members. He or she values keeping things running smoothly over rocking the boat.

Fast food leaders are full of fluff with no substance. You can be under this leader for years and not grow one bit.They are all about jargon, buzzwords, and catchphrases.They lead with stale cliches and ideologies. They aren't original.

Things fast food leaders do that drive people crazy:
They don’t confront or handle conflict well. It takes too much time
They interrupt and shove their ideas onto others.
For them, obedience is more important than understanding.
Their vision is short sighted. They don’t look long term
They use their leadership position to hide their insecurities

Gourmet leaders

Gourmet leaders not only understand that the people carrying out the mission are indispensable to the organization’s success, but they also take action to support their stance.
Gourmet leaders know and show empathy. They can connect on a personal level with their employees.  They help their employees unearth internal motivations for success. They craft employee development plans the align the organziations mission to the individuals development and career aspirations. Being under s gourmet leaders’s is an experience.

Thing gourmet leaders do that makes them successful:
They actually listen, instead of waiting for you to just stop talking.
They equal parts encouragement and praise and correction and challenge.
They are secure enough to reproduce themselves.
They ask for opinions and perspectives other than their own.
They leave their employees better in the long run

Which type of leader are you? Which type of leader would your team say you are? If you don’t know, ask them. Do you know what you need to do in order to be more gourmet and less fast food?  Contact me so we can chat about.

This BRAVE Living blog post is for the woman who knows she is called to an even greater level of leadership, influence,  and money, yet can't figure out how to do that day to day. Subscribe to my 7 Communication Mistakes Women In Leadership Make to understand what might be holding you back.

photo credit: Anne-Marie Nichols via photopin cc


Do you have Imposter Syndrome? Take the quiz to find out.

Do you have imposter syndrome? Take this quiz and find out:

  1. Do you chalk your success up to luck, God, timing, or computer error?
  2. Do you believe “If I can do it, anybody can”?
  3. Do you agonize over even the smallest flaws in your work?
  4. Are you crushed by even constructive criticism, seeing it as evidence of your “ineptness?”
  5. When you do succeed, do you secretly feel like you fooled them again?
  6. Do you worry that it’s just a matter of time before you’re “found out?”

If you answered yes to these questions then according to one article, you are in good company.