My Daughter Is Not Bossy – She Has Executive Leadership Skills
Bossy. I’ve used that word. I’ve used that word recently. I’ve used that word recently about my daughter. I called her bossy and I didn’t think twice about it. She was, well, being bossy. I didn’t praise her for taking a stand or leading. I was annoyed she was telling me what she wanted in a demanding voice. In my frustration, I said “stop being bossy.” And I didn’t even think about what message I was sending her.
Until Sheryl Sandberg , COO of Facebook and organizer of Lean In, asked this question at the BlogHer 13 conference I recently attended. First, she identified the few men in the audience and asked them if they have ever been called bossy. No hands. Next she turned the question to the remaining crowd of over 4,000 women. A sea of hands flew in the air.
If you’ve been on Twitter recently, you’ll know what she said next. “Next time you’re about to call your daughter bossy, take a deep breath and say, ‘My daughter has executive leadership skills.'” Her underlying message was that we – men and women – have to work on breaking the stereotype that strong-willed females are negatively called “bossy” while similar behavior in males is encouraged and even praised.
Now I wonder if I’m too late to reverse this negative association with my daughter. Sadly – this was not the first time I called her bossy. If it were just once I think I could turn it around. This “bossy” behavior has irked me for a long time, but I never thought that I could be breaking down a positive trait – this naturally strong will she has always owned and worked to her advantage.
Growing up, I was frequently intimidated by the “bossy” mean girls in school. You know – the ones that make all the rules and completely ignore everyone else, especially the shy kids. I don’t want my daughter to be one of them. She’s not, but what if she grew up to become one? What if bossy turned into bully?
I never even considered the flip side. What if she were bullied and she just took it? What if she didn’t get a promotion because she could no longer stand up for herself? What if she were too afraid to pursue her dreams?
I don’t know if it’s too late for her. All I know is that the next time she’s exerting her opinion onto me, I’m going to refrain from calling her “bossy”, take a deep breath, and praise her “executive leadership skills.” Though I still won’t let her get her way every time – that would be disastrous.