• Shelley Voyer

Are you bossy?

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

One of the most visible women in Canada, Julie Payette, our Governor General, is coming under scrutiny with several complaints about her angry and explosive behaviour that's created a toxic work environment. And truth be told, I was a little surprised. 

By default, I think women leaders are made of gentler stuff, more compassionate (think Dr. Bonnie Henry). It's incongruent when SHE is not. I considered, if even briefly, that those around her are perhaps a bit whiney, even less competent. But after I shake off my initial stereotypical reaction and consider my own experience, it's not surprising. I've known many bosses who lead with fear. Don't we all — the whole f*@king world — now see what it means to lead with fear and the chaos that follows. 

Interestingly, the commentary on Payette paints a picture that it's more about the environment and less about her leadership — which feels like a bit of a pass by the media. I mean, a toxic workplace doesn't just happen, right? If all is true, Payette's style might be that of a tyrant — one who is unusually harsh, cruel, oppressive — I’d add in a dash of bossy, controlling, demanding for good measure. And this, unfortunately, does make her a leader, just one we don't want to follow. 

It’s funny how we assume great accomplishments automatically qualify one to be a great leader — even though the skill sets are very different. So what is good leadership, and what is your leadership style? Because after all, this is all about women who lead, Julie Payette included. There’s a plethora of articles, research, theory, and methods to find yours. Best to do a little googling and see what resonates with you. This one from HBR is fun to try, a bit more like a personality test. But, to really grow as a leader, you need the input of others. It’s hard to see what you look like without a mirror. 

To be a good leader (IMO) is to remove your ego.

I've had some leadership training. It's good stuff. Do it, if you can. To be a good leader (IMO) is to remove your ego. To suspend your opinions, conclusions and draw out the best solution from your team — even if you already know what you want. For a doer, It's exhausting.  You need to uncover solutions through strategically placed questions. For a control freak and a perfectionist, it's frightening. You must also be the cheerleader and coach — giving credit where credit is due (even if you thought of it first). So forget appreciation and applause. Quite frankly, you have to swallow all your fear, uncertainty, and inadequacies to lead, which might be hard for some women because we worry others don't see our real value. For many, we assume those around us don't know how capable, competent, and smart we are, so we overcompensate, which comes across as bossy, controlling, demanding. It's a lose-lose, ladies. 

Now, I'm not saying I'm a good leader. I'm a work in progress, and clearly, Julie Payette is too. You might even call me bossy-pants (I'm a doer). But I'm trying as we all are. I will say this though: if you lead people, find your leadership style. Get some feedback from your team, and LISTEN to it, you’ll be better for it. Nothing is quite as eye-opening as having others judge you, honestly, for your benefit. Too bad Julie didn't do this before she lost her team and unfortunately, some of her credibility too.

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