Be A Brilliant Leader Without Being Bossy


As a leader, are you afraid of being “bossy?”

Bossy – it’s not typically a positive adjective, right?

Did you know that women are far more likely to be described as bossy over men? An assertive man is considered confident while a woman is bossy.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who was smart and full of ideas. She was naturally organized, creative, and able to come up with a system for just about anything. She loved to read, sew, draw, write letters, and play baseball with the boys. And she didn’t hesitate to take charge.

She kept her four younger brothers in line.

When the neighbor kids played school, she was the teacher, again!

And guess who managed the lemonade stand?

That little girl was me. I’ve learned the hard way that being bossy, having all the answers, or the right experiences is not what makes a leader! In fact, the need to control or be bossy is mostly a great way to annoy the people around you! That goes for parents (yes, you are leaders), those who lead in a corporate or non-profit setting, or if you are just leading you!

Thankfully, my leadership skills have come a long way since my little girl days! While it’s always tempting to want to take charge, it’s a huge relief to realize that, as a leader, I don’t have to have all the answers. In fact, superior solutions are generally arrived at through collaboration. Nor is it always necessary for me to share my opinions or experiences.

Making sure the people you lead have ownership in whatever you are trying to accomplish makes a difference and leads to superior results. Here are a few other ways to lead well without being “bossy,”

1. Understanding the Basics

People get excited about their work when they feel good about themselves. As a leader, it’s imperative that you take the time to notice, recognize, and appreciate the efforts your team makes. They want to know what they are doing well so they can do more of that.

Resist the urge to tell them “Great job” or “thank you for all that you do.” What you are recognizing and appreciating must be specific and crystal clear so your people are able to repeat it.

Your influence increases when you take the time to pay attention to your people – pay genuine attention. As an added bonus, regularly connecting with your people around positive topics lessens the sting when you have the occasional area a team member might need to improve in.

2. Pinpointing What Motivates

What motivates you might not motivate your people. The truth is people do things for their reasons, not yours. How will you discover their reasons? Ask! What excites you about this project? What would make this assignment more motivating for you? And remember, what motivates is NOT always money!

3. Encouraging Collaboration

If you want your team to increase their level of ownership, include them in the solution and implementation process. You will be surprised by the insights and creative ideas they have to offer and the effect it has on their engagement. A more engaged team member is a more productive team member. It also encourages learning and grown and that all creates the potential for better results.

4. Asking Challenging Questions

Leaders have many roles! One of their most important roles is to develop other leaders.

One of the most practical ways to develop leaders is by asking powerful questions. Questions that get people thinking in new ways and invite them to come up with new solutions.

What if getting better results hinges on your ability to stimulate your team to explore the current challenges, obstacles – even what’s not working, in ways that lead to fresh outcomes?

When coaching leaders, I find they are often excited about the idea of asking questions, and what asking questions might lead to, but are often concerned that it will be a time-consuming process.  Add in a few looming deadlines and suddenly the idea of asking great questions feels even less feasible.

The moments when you are tempted to “tell” to save time are the very moments that asking the questions would have the most profound effect! Telling is not a short cut.

When asking questions, not only are you nurturing your team’s problem-solving skills, but you, will also increase engagement. And perhaps most surprising, you may discover that many of your assumptions have been all wrong!

Start practicing asking more questions!

5. Creating Safety

Without a safe place to experiment, try new things, and make mistakes, your team will stop collaborating, taking risks, and participating no matter how involved in the process they are or how many questions you ask.

True innovation is possible when there is a safe place to fail; when failure is seen as a stepping stone to success.

6. Setting Clear Expectations

Before setting clear expectations, you must be clear on the results you looking for. Only then are you able to communicate your expectations clearly to your team.

Without a clear target, I guarantee you won’t get the results you are looking for.

One of the biggest mistakes I see leaders making is not setting clear expectations and then wondering why they aren’t getting the results they wanted. And just as important…

7. Following Up

If you only set expectations but don’t follow up, your expectations were set in vain!

Your people will pay attention to what you follow up on and if you don’t follow through they will assume it wasn’t a priority to you.

8. Give Caring Feedback

Feedback is a powerful tool!

The most effective feedback is given sooner rather than later and is very specific. In other words, you clearly share when, where, and what happened along with the impact their actions had. For example, “This morning you handled that irate client with skill. I especially liked how calm you remained and how you were able to walk them through the process. As a result of the way you handled that situation, I can see how much you’ve grown and that you have much to offer others in this department.”

Another example, “Yesterday you were late for the meeting and arrived unprepared for the presentation. As a result, we were not able to move forward on the project and now the team will have to scramble to meet the deadline next week.”

Giving feedback is about pointing out the positive (back to point #1) as well as what needs to change. In fact, positive feedback is even more important!

So, why not model the importance of feedback by asking for it too?

9. Trusting God!

The need to control shrinks the more you trust God, follow His lead, and leave the results to Him. When you are confident in His love for you and His ability to work on your behalf it sets you free to be the leader you need to be! The leader He wants you to be.

Being bossy isn’t actually leading. It’s about demanding rather than influencing and while that may work in the short term, in the long run it limits your influence. Takes a toll on morale, and hinders results.

You want to be a leader worth following!

What changes would make you a more brilliant and influential leader?

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.

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