I’m bossy. I always have been. And today, I’m a boss. I’m the founder and CEO of a global and newly public company. And you know what? My bossiness helped get me here.
Except I’d call it leadership.
Growing up, I was very aware of my strengths organizing people, listing out projects, and assigning tasks. At age 5, I was handling the phones for my parents’ business. I was assertive, and my parents needed that and appreciated it.
My tendency toward problem-solving was seen as a good thing and it evolved so that I handled dinner reservations, vacation planning and mediating between my five other siblings. It wasn’t until high school when I realized this leadership style wasn’t appreciated everywhere. And it wasn’t expected of me, simply because I was a girl.
So I appreciate the Ban Bossy campaign (#banbossy) spearheaded by Sheryl Sandberg and the Girl Scouts. If we can get the word "bossy" out of the mouths of parents, friends, teachers and peers, we can make a dent in eliminating the negative connotations of female leadership.
Just imagine: "Your daughter is such a leader." instead of "Your daughter is so bossy." A 2008 Girl Scouts survey shows that girls between the ages of 8 and 17 avoid leadership roles for fear that they will be labeled "bossy" or disliked by their peers. And one study Sandberg cites says sixth- and seventh-grade girls said they’d rather be perceived as "popular and well-liked" than "competent and independent." While their male peers said the opposite.
That’s scary. And heartbreaking.
I believe the role I was able to play at home – how my family embraced and encouraged my natural strengths -- helped get me through any high school negativity. I knew I was valuable. I knew I had ideas to offer. I felt this in my core. And so I embraced being bossy….if that’s what they wanted to call it. Because I embraced who I was.
As the CEO of an online care-finding service, I know that the people who influence our children come in all forms: grandparents, day care employees, teachers, nannies, babysitters and parents. So it’s important that we take this village – and teach them – what we value in our children, and how we want to see our daughters thrive. Let’s teach our daughters the same things we teach our sons…to be strong and kind and confident and proud. That their style, spunk, flair, creativity, leadership, unique interests -- are huge assets. Everyone might not always like them (not a bad life lesson in and of itself) and that’s OK. Just stay true to who they are because that’s pretty terrific all on its own.
So let’s ban bossy and embrace our ambition, girls. Parents, tell your daughters to cherish their leadership, wit, intelligence, and personal style for getting things done. Teach them to figure out how they blend their style with others’ -- but stay true to who they know they really are. These traits should not be stifled. These traits are what will make them the next great leader, entrepreneur, executive, CEO, mother, partner and friend.
I promise you that this is what matters.
Tell me, how will you ban bossy -- but strengthen leadership skills -- in your house?