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Good Leaders Aren’t Bossy

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the word “bossy” being used to describe assertive, successful women versus the word “leader” for men with the same qualities.  Personally, I have never called a bossy person of any gender a good leader, nor have I called a good leader, man or woman, bossy. 

The difference between someone who is Bossy versus someone who is a Leader, in my opinion, is the respect that they do or do not show and/or give to their supporters.

I am a natural Supporter – for lack of a better term, I often refer to myself as a “Beta”, the person who directly supports the Alpha.  In a wolf pack, the Beta is usually the Alpha’s mate and she is given an equal amount of respect by the pack as the Alpha, because they recognize her role as one of importance.

But for us humans, as women in leadership roles balk at being called Bossy, I’d like to give my perspective on the rarely recognized role of Beta, or Supporter, or as the masses often call us: the pee-ons, worker bees or followers.

On the slope of a wooded hill near my home, the sun rises each morning and silhouettes a Pine tree that towers majestically above the rest.  It stands tall and straight, its limbs swaying gently with the rhythm of the breeze.  From here, on the opposite hillside, the pine appears to be the King* of the Mountain, surrounded by his subjects.  Over many decades, he somehow managed to get more nutrients and sunlight than the rest.  Even as the tallest and biggest tree, he withstood storms, floods, droughts, parasites and myriad other forces of nature, continuing to thrive even as others fell around him.


Pine afar













From afar, he appears to stand alone, greater than the rest.  In truth, he is superior because of what lies at his base.

Pine up close













He is tall and wide, rough and rigid, powerful and stoic.  His Queen*, his Beta, is a Manzanita.  She is petite and svelte, smooth and curvaceous, strong and resilient.  Long ago, they were each faced with a choice.  He could have used his might to dominate their shared space so that she could no longer grow.  She could have given up or grown in another direction, as the Manzanita sometimes will.

Instead, the beautiful solution they created allowed them both to flourish and share each other’s strengths, creating a lifelong, symbiotic partnership.

She will never tower above the others or be the first to feel the sun’s nourishing light, but she doesn’t need to – because he does.  When the wind comes whipping through the forest and his strength is put to the test, he doesn’t have to worry about his roots giving out – because she is there, keeping their foundation solid.  There are patches of her soft, silky bark growing on his trunk, and his pine needles are draped over her long and winding arms. 

To sit benePine & Manzanita Danceath them and be surrounded by their comfort is one of the greatest joys in my day to day life.  I am inspired by their tenacity, their acceptance of their natural roles, and their ability to be at once so dedicated to their mutual goal of survival and so respectful of each other’s inherent character.

In my mind, a great leader finds his or her Beta, whether it be a mate in personal life, an assistant or “right hand (wo)man” in professional life, and treats that person (or people) with the respect that they deserve.  Recognizing that alone, goodness can be achieved, but together, true, long lasting greatness is possible.  When such an amazing partnership is formed, other people want to be a part of it, crave to see it succeed, and delight in “following” their leader.

I used to try to be an Alpha, but for years now I have been a proud Beta.  I am an innate Supporter, and in that role – both in my personal and professional life – I thrive when I’m able to collaborate with a good Alpha and use my creativity, intellect, wit, attention to detail and quiet, nurturing nature to make magic happen.

I will always happily work with a good leader, but I refuse to work with someone who is bossy – whether they be man, woman or child.  Because I may not be an Alpha, but I won’t tolerate being walked on or disrespected.

How about you – are you an Alpha or Beta?  Do you think there’s a difference between being a Leader and being Bossy?

* I’m calling the Pine a He and the Manzanita a She because I spend a great deal of time with them and I feel that those “gender roles” are accurate.  However, I do feel that the Alpha and Beta in any relationship can be either male or female.

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