Women demonstrate leadership every day; in their families, their communities, their businesses and their countries. This post is a refreshed version of one I wrote in 2010 about women in my family who span three generations. In acknowledgment of International Women’s Day on March 8th, this is a salute to them and to all women who embrace their inner bossiness; focus on what’s important; and make a positive difference in the lives of those around them.
Growing up, I never considered myself to be bossy, having inherited my father’s more conciliatory disposition, but the older I get, the more like my mother I become. As a result, my inner bossiness, which once lay dormant, now rises up with greater regularity.
The women in my family are like that…bossy. They have been bossy for generations in fact.
My great grandmother raised four daughters and, with her husband, ran a dry goods store somewhere in the south of Cornwall, England. My great grandfather was a handsome devil, with, (I’m told), something of a roving eye and possibly feet to match. I imagine great grandma must have had to fend for herself on many an occasion. Being bossy probably came in handy.
My maternal grandmother married a sailor and spent many years raising her three children on her own while my grandfather served in the Merchant Navy. Bossiness, for her, was a necessary skill.
My paternal Grandmother was also a Shopkeeper. She married a man with little ambition, I’m told, and a penchant for gambling and drink. Together they had five sons. During the 1920s and 30s everything was scarce, at least for them. Grandma was a smart businesswoman though. Through her hard work, her shop became the mainstay of her family’s livelihood. And, in her “spare time”, she raised chickens in her back yard. Dad often said that if not for his mother, they might have starved. She was determined and focused and yes, probably a little bossy too.
When Dad’s parents both became ill with cancer, my Auntie Ethel took care of them. Auntie Ethel was a wonderful woman. On first glance, she might have been described as “homely”. But in every other sense, she was a beauty. It was Auntie Ethel who saw the intelligence in my father and insisted he go to high school, in spite of opposition from his brothers and perhaps certain indifference from my grandparents. Auntie Ethel was a driving force in my father’s life and he loved her even though, or perhaps because, she was bossy.
My mother defied the convention of the early fifties and sixties by working full-time while having a family. Luckily, my parents had a great and equal partnership. The rest of the world however, was not particularly approving of her. When confronted by the Principal of my elementary school about her “duty” to remain home to care for her children, she raised herself up to her greatest height of five foot three and told him to where to go. She was a force to be reckoned with and one who successfully propelled (and yes, bossed) me through my years of excruciating shyness and self-doubt.
When I reflect on these stories, I am reminded that leadership comes in many forms. But, throughout, there is an undeniable theme. It is about leading the way and also pushing through, the hard stuff with determination and heart. It’s about standing up against unwarranted and unsolicited criticism. And, it’s about finding ways to make things work in spite of the inevitable obstacles that litter the path to success or, in some cases, survival. In short, while we often view bossiness in a negative light, there are times when its usefulness should not be underestimated.
So go ahead, tread carefully, but be bossy every now and then. Just don’t be like my Auntie Flossie. She crossed the line into the land of tyranny and my uncle Reg no doubt died before his time… just to get some peace.
How about you? How have the women in your life influenced you?
What do you think?