Bossiness Is Not a Leadership Trait, No Matter What Sheryl Sandberg Says

I want every little girl who someone says ‘they’re bossy’ to be told instead, ‘you have leadership skills,'” said Sheryl Sandberg. The COO of Facebook says she was told this, and look at her now! This quote keeps showing up on my Facebook feed, and while I love my friends, this quote is driving me nuts.

Bossy is not leadership. In fact, bossy is the opposite of leadership. Being bossy is a skill that every 2 year old has mastered. Bossy is “shut up and do it my way, I know best!” Leadership is the opposite.

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15 thoughts on “Bossiness Is Not a Leadership Trait, No Matter What Sheryl Sandberg Says

  1. This author seems to have missed the point by Sandberg. It’s not about being called bossy, it’s about the person who can’t see, or doesn’t want to see, leadership abilities in women and pushes a leadership skill into a different personality genre to satisfy their own uncomfortableness with women in leadership positions.

    1. Nah, it’s about the fact that bossiness does not equal leadership. It mimics it, but it’s not leadership. Bossiness should be nipped in the bud. Leadership should be nurtured and developed.

        1. Not all women.

          The average manager is not a leader, male or female. And if they decide to use Command & Control (“tell” language), they’re being bossy… male or female.

  2. Bossiness I can get at home. In the office I aspire to a different experience. (tongue very firmly in cheek)

  3. Dear Evil HR Lady,

    Bossiness is leadership, just very bad leadership which will always lead employees to be demotivated, demoralized, and disengaged because no one likes being told what to do. Gallup surveys clearly show that most leadership is bad leadership by attempting to direct and control the workforce.

    The opposite as you say can be superior leadership if it is dedicated to helping and supporting employees.

    Just a fine point. You are spot on Evil HR Lady.

    1. I have to disagree. Bossiness isn’t leadership. It’s a typical quality in managers, in supervisors, in “bosses”. But it is not leadership. Most managers are not “leaders”. They’re simply people with direct reports and a bad attitude.

  4. I think you’re missing the point. Girls who show leadership abilities are told that they are bossy, while those same qualities are encouraged in boys. Of course there is a different between being a true leader and being bossy.

    1. If she had said, “I want all little girls who have leadership traits to be told they have leadership traits and not that they are bossy,” that would be what you are saying. And, I hope that is what she meant.

      But what she said is that girls who are bossy have leadership skills. And since bossy does not equal leadership, that statement is a bad one.

  5. It’s true that some people confuse bossy attitude with leadership. They have to understand that a bossy attitude will not lead you to success. Being bossy is easier – you have to think only about yourself, but being a leader involves more skills – it means thinking about your team and empathizing with those you are leading. If we are taking about children, a bossy behavior is understandable, but it’s not something that adults should encourage.
    What I want to point out is the difference between bosses how are leaders and bosses who are bossy. To be a good leader takes time and skills, you should invest time in your team. Leadership is about communication, talks between members of the ream and leader. A good leader will always put the welfare of his team ahead of him. There is a thin line between a real leader and a bossy one. Sometimes leader can fall into the trap of their ego. Even though sometimes is hard is very important for every leader to maintain the balance between their true identity and their ego. As a leader, you should know how to keep your ego under control. I found an article about ” The ego evolution of leaders” and I think that it can be a very good related subject. You can start by being a good leader, but in time your ego can turn you in an inefficient bossy leader. The leaders should keep in mind that ego trap can mess up all their work and sometimes is very hard to fix things up and to earn the team trust. To grow as a person, a leader needs constantly a right feedback from his team.
    Bossy is not an alternative for leading a team, is just a way cover your fears by being dictatorial and telling people what to do and expecting them to do it without any input. What’s the challenge here if everyone one is doing just in your way?

  6. The aforementioned quote by Sandberg has been popping up on my FB feed recently, so I just wrote a blog post––reacting to it.
    After writing it, I came across your piece. I appreciate how you clearly set out many differences between being bossy and being a leader in your article. Also, I find it amusing that both of us referred to our personal experience with toddlers. 🙂

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