Finally, society’s instinct to call females “bossy” is being questioned, and hopefully stopped. Through a collaboration by Lean In‘s Sheryl Sandberg and the Girl Scouts of America, the new “Ban Bossy” campaign questions why it is that girls and women are always being called “bossy,” a title that can hinder leadership skills, especially in young girls. When society automatically puts this label on a girl that is showing leadership skills, it causes her to back down, instead of teaching her how to effectively be a leader.
As someone who has been called “bossy” numerous times throughout my childhood, I agree with this campaign 100% and wish that someone spoke out about it sooner. Let me take you back through my own childhood experiences, and offer you some advice on being a good leader.
I was a relatively shy individual growing up. I often kept to myself and had only a few close friends, one of which was equally as shy as I was from day one in preschool and is still my best friend to this day. I joined Girl Scouts with her in first grade; being at separate schools, it was a time for me to still spend time with her and to make new friends as well. Our mothers became more active in Girl Scouts over the years, and are also close friends to this day.
It was through Girl Scouts that I was able to finally break out of my timid habits and develop leadership skills. As I grew older, I volunteered to help younger Girl Scouts, and helped run troop meetings for my own troop as well as a younger troop my mom and her friend ran together. It allowed me to be comfortable leading others and how to be an effective leader.
There was a difference between telling someone what to do and demonstrating how to do it.
I don’t remember when the first time I was called bossy was. But I remember it happened quite frequently. I was the oldest child, with two younger brothers 18 months and 7 years younger than me. As an older sister, I was always trying to help my younger brothers, whether they wanted the help or not. I was what you could consider to be “bossy.” I tried to teach my younger brother to walk and read before he showed any interest in either. I helped my mom to take care of my youngest brother a lot, and always made sure he wasn’t getting into any trouble. People called me out for acting too much like his mother, but I only wanted what was best for my little brother.
What we need to do is help girls to balance their leadership skills. How do you demonstrate leadership skills, without breaking boundaries or acting too demanding? And later in life, how do you be a good mother without being too overbearing to your children? It is hard to be a good leader, believe me, but it is possible.
Right now, I am Co-Editor of the Wagnerian Newspaper (the student newspaper at my college) and I have developed many important leadership skills. Having to lead and teach my peers was not an easy task at first. How are you supposed to tell your peers what to do, without overstepping the boundaries? And, how are you supposed to get them to actually listen? Let me share with you some leadership skills and tips that have worked for me.
1. Be a good listener You have probably heard this before, but being a great listener is super important. You can’t just give out orders; you have to listen to ideas and complaints as well. Always ask for input!
2. Be approachable You have to be open and approachable; people should want to come and talk to you when they have a problem. Treat the person with respect and never talk down to someone or act superior.
3. Be professional and balance your professional/personal life Don’t be over — or under — professional. Always act professional, no matter what setting you are in (this includes email, texting, social gatherings, the office, wherever!) Keep a balance between your personal life and your professional life. Just because your best friend is your co-worker does not mean you can talk to them about your love life all the time at work. Also, never treat anyone differently because they are your friend (or enemy).
There is a fine line between being a good “leader” and being “bossy.” Refrain from using “bossy” and other insulting terms when describing women in leadership positions, as well as young girls. Instead, encourage leadership skills in others, and don’t forget to focus on your own leadership skills! We all have the ability to become great leaders, it just takes a little practice.