#BanBossy? Great. But May I Also Add #BanBitchy

“When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead. Pledge to Ban Bossy.” –BanBossy.com

I am SO excited to write about this today, and even more excited to get your feedback. The ever-inspiring rockstar Sheryl Sandberg just launched her latest baby – the Ban Bossy Movement (along with Girl Scouts of America). Sheryl, I applaud you. It’s a brilliant initiative. I have been a long-time supporter of yours as you can see here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erica-diamond/leaping-in_b_2862847.html

Ladies, watch this.

Now, I’m not going to wax on today. Also, today’s post may not be what you expected. Or maybe it is.

After I watched the above video this week, I tweeted this little tweetie bird. And received a lot of feedback.

Here’s the thing. Believe me, I get it. I get the message, and I get the importance of empowering girls to speak up and follow their leadership talents all the way to the top, baby. What I’m saying is, it shouldn’t be an excuse to allow bitchiness off the hook.

Women need to be nice.

If you’ve followed me on social media, watched me on TV, read my blogs, read my book, heard me speak, been coached by me, you KNOW I am all for girl power and chasing your dreams with fierce determination. I’m the biggest cheerleader for women’s success, encouraging them to step up & lean in. In fact, I shared this very shot for International Women’s Day.

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But there’s a fine line in the messaging.

And here’s what I worry about. I worry that it green-lights bitchiness. I worry that it glorifies leadership styles like Anna Wintour, or Martha Stewart (both phenomenal businesswomen, no doubt).

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And it doesn’t change the fact that bossiness just isn’t nice… at any age. True empowered leaders who feel good in their skin, and are confident in their abilities, don’t need to push their power all over the place. I know many women in leadership positions who are bossy and bitchy. But I also know MANY extraordinary female leaders who aren’t bossy. They support their team, they encourage their team, and ***aghast*** they are NICE.

Women need to support each other.

I’m all for banning bossy, ladies. We just need to make sure we’re being nice at the same time, K? You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

So if I had to teach young girls anything, I may not say #BanBossy. My first lesson would be in self esteem, because an empowered and confident young girl can change the world. No, I may not say #BanBossy. Frankly, I’m not one for banning words in the first place. But I may say to be encouraging. Be a mentor to others. Be a supporter. Be a cheerleader to your friends. Be nice.

It’s cool to be nice.

These my friends, are the greatest leadership qualities.

Would love your thoughts.

Erica3

17 Comments
  1. Erica,

    I love this post and completely agree. As a senior manager at an school for the past two summers, I received many comments about being a “bitch” or “bossy” just for doing my job.

    I think it is challenging to get the right balance between being assertive and gaining respect; while at the same time being approachable and nice and giving. Do you have any tips for this?

  2. I love this! I think women can do/be and accomplish anything they want. I also think too many women believe they have to be “bitchy” or “bossy” in order to gain respect from peers. I believe that is all wrong and what you are saying is right on!! We gain respect from the way we treat people and I’ve always said, you have way more power when you are being kind because respect is power. Intimidation is not. At leat to me!!

  3. I agree with you. Call it bossy. Call it bitchy. You can’t just simply swap in the word “leader.” Women can be bossy and bitchy. I think it comes down to style. If you want to earn the title of leader, you need to lead in a way that makes others want to follow. You need to be respectful. Still, it can be a delicate topic with women in the workforce. Sometime if a woman challenges, she gets labeled as aggressive. I know Sandberg also touched on this in “Lean In.” There is a likeability factor to consider as well.

  4. I agree, but I also think women get so HUNG UP on trying to be nice — to their own detriment sometimes. For example, we’re taught that being nice means being humble. So women are more likely to downplay their successes and strengths in a job interview. Which leads to men getting more favorable consideration for jobs.

    I wholeheartedly embrace being kind as a life philosophy, and that includes how I treat people in the workplace. But I am working hard not to say “just” or “sorry” all the time as a way of seeming nice, and instead speaking more confidently and showing, well, who’s boss.

  5. Wow. You totally don’t get it!! The #banbossy campaign isn’t about leadership styles or traits, it’s about the double standard in gender! You say girls need to be nice and considerate of others and supportive of their team… but what about boys? Shouldn’t they be held to the same expectations? See the issue is that girls are EXPECTED to be nice while boys aren’t. So girls are labeled as bossy while boys exhibiting IDENTICAL behaviors are labeled as having good leadership. Your post is in fact ADDING to the entire problem! By saying that girls shouldn’t BE bossy or bitchy you are making it worse. This campaign is about the actual LABELS bossy and bitchy that are exclusively given to girls, discouraging them from pursuing future leadership roles because they fear being labeled something so hurtful that a guy would never be called. Case in point: I am 36 years old and have held many leadership positions. My female peers consistently tell me that I have great leadership skills and that they envy my confidence and assertiveness. BUT, I have been told by male peers and male bosses that I need to “cool it” and was even told by a male colleague “stop being bossy” – he said this to me after he physically assaulted me. For which he was not fired. #banbossy is about the double standard. NOT about behaviors as you write in your post.

  6. You also seem to be exhibiting a double standard in what you write:

    “And here’s what I worry about. I worry that it green-lights bitchiness. I worry that it glorifies leadership styles like Anna Wintour, or Martha Stewart (both phenomenal businesswomen, no doubt).”

    Would you write the same thing about Donald Trump or the (male) editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine?? Probably not. They are constantly being praised for being great leaders and having accomplished so much, while women who’ve accomplished so much and are leaders in the same realm are labeled as bossy and bitchy. THIS is the problem!!! Do you know that Donald Trump is a perfectionist and has super high standards just like Martha Stewart (why do you think the original Apprentice show was followed up with The Apprentice-Martha Stewart?). But Ms Stewart, who exhibits identical behaviors as Mr Trump, is often labeled in the media as bossy or bitchy, while Mr Trump, who is not known for being very “nice,” is actually labeled as almost a hero and someone all future business people should look up to!! You see? This is the problem. And why Sheryl Sandberg has started the #banbossy movement. I’m sure Martha Stewart would have loved to start the same movement!

    1. I agree. Calling Anna Wintour and Martha Stewart ‘the other kind of leadership’ and assuming they aren’t nice, or empathetic is extremely counter productive to this whole campaign.

  7. I love this post and completely agree. As a senior manager at an school for the past two summers, I received many comments about being a “bitch” or “bossy” just for doing my job.

  8. Thank you all for your honesty, diverse opinions and the time you took to read this article and comment. What makes the world go round, is we all see life through our own lens, which brings beautiful diversity, subjectiveness and a plethora of opinions. As long as we can agree to disagree with each other with respect, I am all for it! Bring on the debate! 😉

  9. I love this! And totally agree, although I think the argument would have been stronger had you also included examples of men known for being tyrannical or even cruel business leaders–folks like Gordon Ramsey, Steve Jobs, etc.

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