Is “bossy” a bad word? According to the Girl Scouts of America and other high-powered leaders and entertainers, the term “bossy” is a derogatory term. The Girl Scouts of America have launched a campaign to ban the term “bossy” from being used to describe girls. The reasoning is that girls allow the threat of being called “bossy” to deter them from accepting positions of authority and leadership. Therefore, advocates desire to ban the word from being applied to females. This article will clarify term bossy and will demonstrate what is truly being desired: leadership.
The Definitions Used
Videos of the campaign can be accessed at http://banbossy.com/. In order to determine whether this is a legitimate cause, one needs to engage the semantics employed by the campaign. What do the terms used in the campaign really mean?
“Bossy” The primary term used in the campaign is the supposed derogatory term bossy. According to dictionary.com, the term bossy means one who is “given to ordering people about; overly authoritative; domineering” (dictionary.com). Okay…Houston…we have a problem already. The term bossy indicates one who is overly authoritative. This is not a good indicator of leadership. It may be an indicator of one who is obsessively compulsive or one who has control issues. This has nothing to do with someone who is ambitious or in leadership. The term bossy would be derogatory for anyone who is domineering. But, let’s move on.
“Leadership” Leadership, which is also used in the campaign,is defined as one who holds the “position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group: the ability to lead: the act or instance of leading; guidance; direction” (dictionary.com). Already, there appears to be a huge difference between one who is deemed bossy and one who displays leadership qualities. Guiding and directing individuals is completely different than one who is domineering. But, let’s move on to one more term.
“Ambitious” Another term is thrown in the mix by the advocates of the campaign. One of the advocates uses the term ambitious. The term ambitious means “eagerly desirous or achieving or obtaining success, power, wealth, a specific goal; showing or caused by ambition; strongly desirous; eager; requiring exceptional effort, ability” (dictionary.com). In other words, this is someone who holds a desire to succeed. There is nothing wrong with anyone being ambitious. But one must ask; will someone have greater success achieving their goals by being bossy or by being a good leader?
The Traits of a Good Leader
What makes a good leader? According to Forbes Magazine, the top 10 qualities that constitute a great leader include: “honesty, ability to delegate, communication, sense of humor, confidence, commitment, possessing a positive attitude, creativity, intuition, and the ability to inspire” (Prive 2012, Forbes.com). Guess who wrote the article? A woman! Tanya Prive! Here is the problem that I personally hold with the “Ban Bossy” campaign; the advocates are not promoting true leadership. They are seeking to limit a word that they feel holds females back from their true potential. In reality, girls and boys need to be taught what constitutes good leadership. Bossiness is not a trait of good leaders. Jesus said that the best way to lead is by becoming a servant leader. Jesus said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28). Jesus was a true leader.
It would seem to this writer that the problem is not with the term bossy, but with the attitude of bossiness. Bossy people do not make good leaders. Good leaders are able to delegate and bring out the potential in those they lead. If we want our boys and girls to learn the essence of true leadership, let us not make a trivial issue out of a vocabulary term. Let us teach our children the true definition of leadership. Therefore, let us rid ourselves of bossy behaviors instead of the term bossy. By getting rid of bossiness and becoming true leaders, the term bossy will no longer be necessary.
All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New Living Translation, 3rd ed. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.
Prive, Tanya. “Top 10 qualities that make a great leader.” Forbes.com. (December 19, 20012). http://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyaprive/2012/12/19/top-10-qualities-that-make-a-great-leader/. (Accessed April 7, 2014).