Am I Bossy Or Strong?

“Success is a goal that can only be reached if you are prepared to frustrate a few people along the way.”

We often regard strength, taking charge and decisiveness as the traits of a good leader. Ideally, though, strength needs to be balanced with other elements of leadership: empathy, vulnerability and empowerment.

I had a great response to a recent greeting on self-confidence, which ran like this… “I’m naturally a very confident person, who doesn’t mind going all out to achieve my dreams, and sometimes I feel like my confidence scares people away, such that I hardly keep friends. Some become my competitors because they feel I overshadow them with my presence. Should I be worried?”

As a strong woman, I can relate. Ideally, strength needs to be balanced with the other elements of leadership – namely empathy, vulnerability and empowerment. This is especially important when growing partnerships, building relationships and creating an empowered team.


Empathy is the ability to relate to people on their level. Very strong people tend to assume everyone is like them and at the same level of understanding – which can make them appear arrogant and ‘bossy’.  The solution is to practice listening and acknowledging what the other person has said (“I hear you, thank you”) before responding.


Vulnerability is the ability to show your softer side – which makes you less scary and allows people to connect with you, heart to heart. One solution is to have a practice of deliberately showing vulnerability. Try making mistakes on purpose, always apologise when you are wrong and openly admit when you don’t know the answers. This can act as an invitation to the other person to support/advise you – thereby breaking down barriers and creating more open relationships.


Empowerment is about making space for others to show their talents. Often strong people are big talkers and naturally take control of the room/boardroom. This can be frustrating for others who may have valuable information to contribute but feel they can’t get a word in. You can try to deliberately create space by using the sticky notes system in meetings – where everyone gets an equal chance to ‘speak’ on a sticky note, using brainstorming sessions where every idea has a place (no matter how wacky) and following the ‘Time to Think’ method of active and respectful listening. 


And lastly, as a strong leader sometimes we just need to accept that being called bossy is not always a bad thing. You may lose a few friends along the way, but you will also get things done – and success is a goal that can only be reached if you are prepared to frustrate a few people along the way!

Have a fantastic week!