In an effort to stir up more conversation about Leadership and Self-Esteem, the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, has launched a “Ban Bossy” campaign. Is it not ironic to anyone that telling others what to do is a perfect example of exactly what she is “attempting” to ban?
The conversation to have as leaders is what leadership parity looks like; it is a strength-based dialogue. The campaign would be more effective if it described the results: Voices heard.
The late French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “If you want to build a ship, then don’t drum up people to gather wood, give orders, and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and endless sea.”
Is this really Sheryl Sandberg’s “unfinished business” of how she was hurt in high school by a teacher who called her “bossy”? Here is a quote from ABC News:
“’I was called bossy when I was in ninth grade,’ Sandberg recalled. ‘My teacher took my best friend Mindy aside and she said, ‘You shouldn’t be friends with Sheryl. She’s bossy.’ And that hurt.’”
Sheryl, go back and THANK that teacher for calling you bossy, because now you ARE the boss. Look where your alleged “bossiness” got you…to the C-Suite! She viewed talent in you, to which she chose to attach a negative connotation, due to the existing social construct. Her feedback was a gift. She was a product of that cultural era, AND she recognized that Mindy must a) think for herself, b) have a voice; and c) not be subservient to others! If I had Mindy as my daughter, I would be grateful to that teacher. If I had Sheryl as my daughter, I would be proud to know I have a future leader in my gene pool.
Eleanor Roosevelt: “You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude.” My proposition is to have women EMBRACE the term Bossy. We, as leaders, CHOOSE to apply a POSITIVE connotation to the word, instead of stepping on our own power.
Empower yourself from within. Do not surrender your power to the admission that “Sticks and stones hurt our bones, and words are something we can’t get over, no matter at what level of influence we attain.” Slang has changed a lot of words: phat, the bomb, SNAFU. (Perfect web example: http://bossygirl1980.com). “Chicano” used to be a word that had negative connotations, until those who are Mexican-American chose to use it as an identity of pride. Now universities, such as UCLA, boast programs such as the Department of Chicano Studies. Are the dean and chancellor, et al, of UCLA attempting to be rude?
Traditional methods of solving problems in human systems are no longer adequate. Appreciative Inquiry is an approach that can be applied to any organizational change process or model. The focus is on WHAT IS DESIRED (i.e. the Pygmalion Effect), versus the negatively reinforcement of what is NOT appreciated. This negative messaging is precisely how young people become horrible supervisors – they do not focus on the constructive guidance; rather, they rant for 30+ minutes about how the employee failed. How does this improve performance? Leaders work on building and infusing energy, not purposely demoralizing resources/talent. Whose interest does that serve?
|Weak Paradigm: Deficit-BasedOrganizations are Problems to Be Solved||Paradigm Shift: Strength-BasedOrganizations are Mysteries to be Embraced|
|Identification of Problems||Appreciating the Best of What Is|
|Analysis of Causes||Envisioning What Might Be|
|Analysis of Possible Solutions||Dialoguing about What Can Be|
|Plan of Action (Treatment)||Innovating What Will Be|
|DEFICIT FOCUS||AFFIRMATIVE FOCUS|
|Sexual Harassment||Positive Gender Relations|
|Low Morale||Highly Motivated|
|Turfism/Silos||High Performance Teams|
|Customer Complaints||Customer Compliments|
|Lack of Training||Highly Skilled|
|Missed Commitments||Commitments Met|
Lean In’s Mixed Messaging
If the intent behind banning the word “bossy” is to raise self-esteem, then why has Miss Piggy been featured on LeanIn.org’s home page for months? Is Miss Piggy a healthy representative for a culture which suffers from body image issues? (BDD – Body Dysmorphic Disorder).
Furthermore, Disney describes Miss Piggy’s personality as:
|Personality||Ditzy, funny, bossy, sexy, glamorous, aggressive, feisty, self-centered, shallow, vain, short-tempered, a diva, demanding, impatient, sometimes sweet and innocent|
For Lean In’s messaging to proclaim how women/girls need to develop their leadership skills and self-esteem, why does their homepage feature Miss Piggy with the article “How to Know He’s the One”? How EXCLUSIVE is that for those of us who are happily single &/or lesbian? Why is Leadership & Management relegated for us to scroll down BENEATH the screachingly 1950’s stereotype of “Kids and Teens, Parenting, and Partnership”? (This alone makes me scream to Hera to help us). What is being subliminally reinforced here as a priority for us women?
Bossy = Boss + (for the Gen) Y
The new wave of feminism is called EGALITARIANISM. “Masculinist” does not exist as the antonym to “feminist.” We leaders CHOOSE to use words that UNITE; not divide. Thus, we are Egalitarians. We ask for Equal Pay for Equal Work and Equal Treatment. No more of this women earning 77 cents on the dollar nonsense. What the heck does “feminine anything” have to do with that?
This type of Ban Bossy conversation is unequivocally NOT the one to have to advance women and girls. It is a detrimental and divisive conversation that takes us two steps back, instead of a quantum leap forward. The intent is well-meaning; the impact is harmful. The adverse, unintended ramifications, for our blossoming girls is that our nation’s most powerful, fierce (dare I say, BossY?) women are telling them to not be bossy.
Girls, be who you are. If you are bossy, be proud. It may get you negative feedback in a 360, AND you can learn to be more effective while being the boss. Listen to Eleanor Roosevelt: “People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.” “Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
Lastly, Mayor A.C. Wharton of Memphis, Tennessee, delivered a crowd-pleasing speech at the Vanderbilt University Healthcare Workforce Diversity Forum last Friday, March 7, 2014. He said, “Out of compost a flower blooms. Do not water the weeds, for they will grow faster than any potential blossoms and thwart their development.”
Ignore the weeds. Bloom, baby, bloom.
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner who focuses on positive growth (see logo); not on the weeds. She is the Chair of Nashville’s Mentorship Programs. CorporateLookingGlass.com.
©Rossina Gil, 2014
In my last blog, Give Us Strategy!, I mentioned how a true, robust culture is the essential ingredient that must be in place prior to developing a successful strategy. Well, another aspect of a sound organizational culture is to promote healthy conflict. This means that the corporate egos must be secure enough to handle challenges, inquiries, and push-back/dissent to the proposed strategies, and this is possible when Cognitive Diversity is allowed. People playing roles, in a resulting inauthentic culture of conformity is doomed to fail.
History continuously validates the notion that removing the individuality of people ultimately causes a culture to fail. Putting pressure on people to conform is the equivalent of extinguishing the fire of genius. How, then, can true cultures execute successful strategies? Foot Soldiers and “Yes-Men” are not leaders. It is simple Economics that when everything is the same, and “commoditized”, the value plummets. The market pays more for what is unique and in short supply. What is the strategy behind reducing top talent “diamonds” into common “coal”? Diversity produces collective benefits. This idea isn’t new. Plato said this two millenia ago. For example, Bletchley Park (WW1) was hardly a rainbow gathering, though they were cognitively diverse. A corporate example would be Procter & Gamble…they found that problems are far more likely to be solved w/ physical chemist, molecular biologist, and a biophysicist than only chemists. Additionally, Scott Page’s Diversity Trumps Homogeneity Theorem essentially states that groups that display a range of perspectives (“predictive models” or THOUGHTS) outperform groups of like-minded experts because a person’s ability to contribute improves if s/he can see a problem in multiple ways and if s/he can apply diverse approaches (“heuristics” or ACTIONS).
Former President John F. Kennedy said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth.” Yet, I’ve met privately with one Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) who described that if people were not “on board,” they should start looking for employment elsewhere. While there is something to be said for solidarity, alignment, and not having a “house divided,” his argument was based on how conformity of thought, style, and behavior is key. In fact, he saw no reason to support Diversity and Inclusion initiatives – despite having a 75+% female talent base with an all-White male C-Suite and investigations made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He further emphasized, “This (company) is NOT a nurturing environment.” Au contraire, mon ami.
The “War for Talent” requires that a CHRO promotes and supports a nurturing environment, if part of the corporate strategy includes pleasing the stockholders and low attrition. Furthermore, a nurturing environment is conducive to meeting the needs of the marketplace…again, simple Economics and ancient Greek philosophy, i.e. “Know thy audience,” dictate that listening intently to the needs of the consumer and meeting/supplying them is a form of commerce that is nurturing. So must that treatment also be directed inwards. And, it just makes painstaking common sense that if you take a hard look at the data. For example, Catalyst reports that Fortune 500 companies with the highest percentages of women officers experienced an average 35.1 percent higher return on equity and 34 percent higher total return to shareholders than those with low percentages of women corporate officers.
- Promote talented women into the C-Suite.
- Have your talent base be reflective of your consumer demographics (i.e. “Identity Representation”).
- Have an Organizational Development practitioner perform a cultural analysis on your organizational culture. S/He can assist with the co-development of an organizational matrix, which is cross-functional.
- Incorporate Inclusion into the Leadership Development workshops.
- Create age diversity to improve collective performance.
Don’t sacrifice ability for diversity…Just balance it.
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator. CorporateLookingGlass.com.
Address to the United Nations, 25 September 1961, jfklibrary.org.
Scott Page, The Difference (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2007).