Banning Bossy, Embracing Femininity

Female executives across the United States are thrilled about Sheryl Sandberg's Ban Bossy Campaign, which is designed to inspire and empower young girls to be leaders.

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.

The movement offers tips, activities and programs for girls to practice their leadership, which will theoretically turn out more women leaders.

This is the beginning of something great. But there is more to the story.

Many of those brave female executives who have forged a path for the rest of us faced a very unique problem. They were playing in a "man's world" and knowing that there was a bias against them, felt that they needed to act "tough" like a man and be "brutally honest"; "a straight shooter." This could translate into being clipped, curt or downright mean for absolutely no reason. Maybe this was their way of protecting themselves against rejection? Very likely. When you are expecting people to criticize you for not being a "leader," it could be quite easy to go the opposite way and turn into a downright dictator.

Women don't need to be men in order to lead. The truth is, our inherent qualities as women make us excellent leaders. In fact, we've always been leaders -- just in a different way. The same talent our mothers used to multi-task by being able to cook, iron, help with homework and carry on multiple conversations is the same talent we executive women employ to manage a team with varying skill sets. Our softer, nurturing side that makes us great big sisters, aunts and mothers is the part of us that helps to foster talent and build a company culture. Our complex, multi-level thinking and emotional intelligence enables us see through a situation when pure logic just isn't enough.

There is more to a female leader than a loud (perceivably bossy) voice. There's real depth, experience and intuition. We are still in a minority, but are growing in number -- largely due to the fact that results speak for themselves. We are also receiving tremendous respect and support from today's male leaders, so it is up to us not to stand in our own way.

Ms. Sandberg's movement is a powerful one. Our collective goal now as professional women should be to support and nurture the growth of other women of every age -- whether that is your 8-year-old daughter or your 55-year-old office manager. It is never too late to become a leader and to send a message to the next generation that we really can do anything.