Do bossy girls make good leaders?

Sheryl Sandberg and Anna Maria Chavez (CEO of the Girl Scouts, apparently) say yes in another tiresome essay. They’re leading the campaign to “ban bossy” — “That girl’s not bossy. She has executive leadership skills.”

I’m bored with silly studies conducted by feminist organizations purporting to show that female board members increase alpha, etc., and will say only one thing here:

Bossiness is not leadership. It is perhaps the very opposite of leadership.

The people we call good leaders are the ones whom others follow willingly. And great leaders are so compelling that people will follow them even where doing so literally means charging to their deaths while the leader stays behind. A bossy person gives orders; bossy girls demand, but they do not command.

Bossiness is (at least among children) predominantly a quality of females. Why? Because a boy who tries to control the actions of other boys (which is to say, exercise dominion over them) ultimately faces the reality of physical confrontation and intimidation. In this fairly unavoidable crucible, the demanding boy who does not become either a leader or a bully learns to moderate his bossy behavior. The sense of entitlement to have his demands obeyed is learned away, at least to a certain extent. That’s not a bad thing; we’re entitled generally to be free from the control of others, a right substantially at odds with an undiminished sense of entitlement to obedience.

Bossiness is bad and leadership good no matter the relation between bossy and bossed. A bossy colleague is an irritant; a bossy boss is a dictator. Leaders inspire and motivate whether they’re co-workers or managers.


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