We took a lot of interest lately, at Cerulean, in the declaration from Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, that we should ban the word “bossy” to prevent young girls being deterred from leadership roles. She contends that the playground put-down has a negative effect on girls that lasts into adulthood – so is she right?

Not only do we think she has a point, but in delivering our leadership & coaching programmes, we have also long suspected that it might be an unhelpful word for both genders. When you think back to the best bosses that you have ever had yourself, or for that matter the times when you have been most effective at getting the best out of your team, there’s one thing that may obvious to you… that the best bosses aren’t necessarily bossy at all.

The simple truth is that the best bosses are not those that make their staff feel that they have to work for them – they motivate by making their staff truly want to work for them. Sadly, all too many bosses over-manage their staff, their overt bossiness alienating their team and therefore damaging their productivity.

Such unhelpful ‘over-managing’ can take many different forms. It might manifest as obsessive micromanagement. While this may make the boss feel like they are in control, it can leave staff feeling constrained and not trusted to make their own decisions in the workplace. Such alienation leads to many staff members leaving their company for an employer who will have more confidence in them.

Similarly, many managers can be guilty of ‘gotcha’ management, which focuses on catching out employees doing something wrong. A constant “I gotcha there!” attitude to one’s team members rarely yields good morale and long-term results.

So, what’s the secret to eradicating ‘over-bossiness’? Simple: telling your talented staff what to do, but not how to do it. Your team members will benefit from your strategic direction, and good managers also play a key role in instructing, coaching and holding staff to account.

Otherwise, though, we find that talented staff members need space, rather than confinement. They need an environment that gives them the confidence to make their own decisions and take chances, rather than constantly fearing mistakes.

It’s something that we see time and time again at Cerulean, and which we consider in our leadership and coaching programmes. Sometimes, it really is the slightly less bossy manager who actually makes the best boss!

Contact the Cerulean team now to find out more about our highly-regarded and wide-ranging leadership coaching programmes.