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Ban Bossy or Embrace Bossy?

Whether you ban bossy or embrace bossy, own your natural leadership style and do it unapologetically.

March 20, 2014, - Download PDF


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Ban bossy? Embrace bossy? You get to choose.

Tiara International LLC was proud and happy to be at the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Girl Scouts awards event where our clients Carrie Hightman and Violet Sistovaris of NiSource were recognized for their commitment to advancing leadership of women and girls. The evening was inspiring from start to finish, featuring several girl scouts as well as the women being honored as their mentors and role models.

This awards dinner happened to be the same week that the Girls Scouts of the USA and LeanIn.Org introduced their Ban Bossy campaign, encouraging girls to lead. The message for all of us is to stop labeling potential leadership behaviors in girls as bossypushy or know-it-all. Words like these, when used negatively, can immediately diminish confidence, spur self doubt and sidetrack leadership trajectories.

At Tiara we absolutely support any campaign that motivates us to stop labeling others. By labeling people who make us uncomfortable, we cause a negative ripple effect both in ourselves (because now we must defend our stance) and others (who might now feel judged, misunderstood and begin to second-guess themselves). This observation is captured elegantly in Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute, a book we often use in our women’s leadership development coaching and programming.

However, we have also witnessed a wide range of reactions resulting from the Ban Bossy campaign. We’ve noticed many women standing up and proclaiming, “Yes! I’ve been called bossy for years, and I’m awesome. I’ve always been bossy, I’ll always be bossy, and I love my bossiness.” In light of this campaign, how can I own my bossiness?

Some of our clients have a different take. They are saying, “I’m a powerful leader although my approach is more behind-the-scenes. I was never called bossy because I’m naturally quiet and introspective. This is how I am most powerful.” How does this campaign encourage leadership of all types?

Others reflect, “I don’t want to encourage my daughter to be something she’s not. I was encouraged to raise my hand and speak up when that terrified me as a child. I wish someone would have taught me how to embrace me. I’ve always thought I should be louder and more outgoing than I am.” How do we accept our daughters’ strengths whatever they are?

We share these stories (as well as those from Tiara consultants Peg Rowe and Betsy Sobiech) to add dimension to the dialogue. The Ban Bossy campaign specifically calls us to stop labeling girls displaying  leadership traits negatively. Yes, we are on board.

To take this commitment a step further, we also encourage you to embrace natural instinct and style when developing leadership in girls, young women and yourself.  True leadership is uniquely individual, not cookie cutter.  What counts is to:

  1. Know what inspires you
  2. Make choices that reflect your values and natural leadership style
  3. Take action toward your professional and personal goals and dreams each day

If it is clearly YOU to own being bossy, great! If is clearly YOU to observe, listen and display a quiet leadership, that is equally great. YOU get to choose!

  • Did you make a change because of the #banbossy campaign?
  • Are you “owning bossy” or “banning bossy”?
  • What is your natural leadership style and how do you own it, unapologetically?

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The Author

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Betsy Sobiech

Betsy Sobiech is an expert in organization development, human behavior, training, systems thinking, communications and coaching. She is fully committed to Tiara’s mission, which is to challenge and guide women around the world to become the leaders they were meant to be in their lives and at work. Betsy currently acts as COO of this growing business and continues to provide direct services to key individual and corporate clients.

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