Saturday, April 01, 2006


taking charge vs. taking over

growing up the oldest child of three and the only girl, i learned early on how to be bossy. i spent uncounted hours herding my little brothers around barking commands and assigning them roles in the play that was my childhood. they resented the hell out of me for it. and although being bossy gave me a certain power, ultimately i knew it was a trap.

nobody likes being bossed around, and bossy people don't (at least from my experience) feel good about being the boss either. being bossy, or as we more often call it, 'controlling' is usually counterproductive. we do it in an attempt to be powerful, to make something happen, and instead it often leads to revolt and disappointment.

i didn't learn to be bossy in a vacuum. i was trained. (as i'm sure were many of you.) it was extremely convenient for my parents to have me be bossy - it helped keep my brothers in line. and i watched adults around me use the technique constantly. they bossed me around and clearly they were the people in control, so being bossy looked like the route to autonomy.

having reached adulthood myself, however, i am becoming more and more clear that being bossy is not all it's cracked up to be. my penchant for controlling situations does not lead to the results i'm after. so lately, i've been doing my best to let go of control, stop bossing people around and switch to taking charge.

on the face of things taking charge may seem a lot like being bossy. but here's the difference - taking charge does not mean that you are in charge. in fact, the smartest way to take charge of a situation is often to enlist others who know more than you do. or to bring a group together to fashion a plan drawn from all of your thoughts combined.

taking charge may not result in us getting our way. we might decide that someone else getting their way makes more sense this time around, or that the solution that works best for the whole group instead of the one best suited to our individual needs is the right choice.

taking charge means looking at a situation and seeing how you can best help it move forward in a positive direction. all of us should act powerfully in the world, it's what we were designed to do. but acting powerfully can mean a wide variety of things in the wide variety of situations we encounter on a daily basis.

a mentor of mine recently suggested that i needed to expand my leadership repertoire. "you can lead by inviting, by engaging, by needing, by asking" she said - "leading by bossing people around is good for certain situations, but it has it's limits."

whether or not you have a habit of being bossy to overcome, what would it mean for you to take charge of the situations in your life?

what situations do you want to make go well by acting powerfully?

as always i'd love to hear your thoughts, post 'em here!

dream big,


The management style I've taken up is to lead by example. It's easier to do and from my experience, people like leaders who "walk-the-walk" and not just "talk-the-talk".
Being bossy has it's place, but sometimes you come off like a know-it-all. It seems that people are more respectful when you can get your hands dirty with them. It's all about team work...

The Good Life
I like this post about bossiness. Just this last weekend I found myself apologizing for ordering someone around.

Even though I stand behind what I demanded be done, my good intention was cancelled out by my bad means of carrying it out.

Two things have been helpful lately. First, noticing that I wasn't trained in "asking" so any instance where I ask for something is a success in and of itself. Second, noticing that I need help and that it's available.

Bossyis ok but when people step on other because they think there way is better is rude and thet can lose frienships. what your oppion on that?
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