Chaikhana: Who’s bossy now?

Today our young ones need to be taught how to handle and manage power. Leadership is not about ladders. It is about bridges. It is not about loudspeaker. It is about cmmunication

<b>Chaikhana</b>: Who’s bossy now?
When Sheryl Sandberg and company launched their #BanBossy campaign, there was an unexpected kneejerk reaction from many men and women. Many of us were called bossy when we were younger. Sometimes my sister would retort, “Stop being so bossy!” when I wanted to enforce my opinion. When that phrase happened my way, it did make me pause to rethink my approach.

I have a problem with the branding around the #BanBossy campaign. Bossy is not an aspirational term. Bossy people are not easy to be around. Bossy applies to men and women both. They are vested with the ego and energy of being right. Bossy is also opposed to collaboration and service. It is certainly not a synonym for leadership.

Yes, I am all for raising girls to be assertive, to aspire, to lead, to be emboldened and courageous to follow their path. We have much work to do here.

The biggest problem for girls is the fact that they are bombarded with mainstream images of perfection. As for women in the workforce, the issue is not bossiness. It is a supportive environment that harnesses their creativity, rewards their contribution, promotes their growth and recognises their needs. What girls also need to be taught is how to handle and manage power.

Managing power

According to Hara Estroff Marano, editor of Psychology Today, “Power is not limited to leaders or organisations; it doesn’t require outright acts of domination. It’s a basic force in every social interaction. Power defines the way we relate to each other. It dictates whether you get listened to. It determines whether your needs take priority or get any attention at all.”

Let’s just be candid here. Most of us are engaged in power plays — at home, at work, on the playground, where ever, what ever. As old as the holy book, as long as man has existed, the battle has not been about money. It has been about power. Who has it, who will lose it and most importantly, who understands it. Like Abe Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test someone’s character, give them power”.

Power in the sandbox

As children we quickly learn that being popular has certain prerequisites. It is a parallel universe where what you learn outside the classroom is more interesting than within. Of course, you are now part of the crowd and the internal struggle begins to retain the crown. From attire, to accessories, to your girlfriends and boyfriends, choices are made. Here is your first test. Power or naught.

Power in relationships

As we grow, we watch our parents, observe other role models, peers, government/business leaders and as we are socialised, we will start responding to our issues with power. At home, power struggles between partners will either result in an outright victory, an acceptable compromise or an uneasy truce. Aggressive or passive aggressive, the power principle is addictive.

Power regained

I remember my days as an intern at an advertising agency. I was out of college where we loved playing the rebel without a cause and jumped straight into the jaws of the mad ad world. It was tough to go from “me world” to the lowest rung on the ladder. Running errands for the account executives, waiting for lofty creative directors, listening to whiny clients and pandering to the art director’s tantrums sucked the energy right out.

In her essay, Dr Miki Kashtun, co-founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication points out, “In the traditional models we have inherited, power resides outside us, usually attributed to the designated leader. Even as we seek to transform the world, we continue to act as if this is true. I cannot count the number of times when I hear from people, be it participants at a workshops or employees in an organisation I support, that it never occurred to them to attempt to shape the outcome of a decision or an event when one thing or another didn’t work for them. They implicitly assume that they have no power and no ‘right’ to power.”

Yes, I agree we must lean in where we need to but nothing matters if everything in your life is self-serving. The lesson we need to teach our young ones is that leadership is not about a title. It is about an attitude. It is not about aggression. It is about assertion. It is not man versus woman. It is man and woman. It is not about ladders. It is about bridges. It is not about loudspeaker. It is about communication. It is not about becoming a boss. It is about service. It is not about being a victim. It is not about becoming a martyr. It is about self-respect and self-esteem.

In the words of Nancy Rathburn, “A strong woman understands that gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. She values and uses all of her gifts.”

(Shaku Selvakumar is a US-based marketing and digital communications

expert; and founder of Coeuredge, a digital experience company)


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