Growing up the daughter of an entomologist, I learned to see parallels between the natural world and the modern world everywhere I look; this inspired me as an entrepreneur and even influenced the name of my company, earthkind. When I heard about the "Ban Bossy" campaign, I was conflicted. Supporting girls and women is a passion of mine, but the idea of banning bossy didn't sit quite right, it just didn't seem natural. Looking at nature, my favorite teacher, I saw a practicality that ignores gender bias and labels and capitalizes on skill sets. The same skills that make an animal leader of the pack can be found at the head of the table in the boardroom.
Size, Skill and Social Structure Rule in the Animal Kingdom
Elephant herds are normally led by females, as are some lemurs, monkeys and antelope. These females lead by employing what we might describe as female traits -- protective, but also caring for the young and the infirm. Other female-led species dominate by size, showing a mix of what humans classify as male and female behaviors such as fierce hunting and scavenging while also caring for their young. Still others, like black widows and praying mantises, would qualify as our most testosterone-fortified action heroes. But even these deadly creatures carry out their functions based on practicality. They're not bossy; they're just hungry.
By contrast, some male animals play roles that we humans would consider more characteristically female. Think about the seahorse. The male carries the eggs in a pouch until they hatch and then looks after the young ones until they are ready to be independent. The famed emperor penguin male protects the eggs for two months during the worst of the Antarctic winter while the mother returns to the ocean for food. And dolphins, walruses and countless other species adopt orphaned young and protect older, more vulnerable individuals. Both males and females carry out this responsibility.
Ban Biases, Not Bossiness
Competition in nature is an important control in the ongoing battle for limited resources. One way to win a competition is through imitation. Perhaps the business world needs to mimic nature's best competitors and most responsible community members instead of giving into gender-based biases and labeling female leaders as "bossy."
Supporting leaders, regardless of their size or gender, is what leads to the greatest success in nature and in society. In nature, the most qualified party fills the leadership void and turns chaos into cooperation; that's what needs to happen in business. If we dedicate our limited resources of time and energy to support and encourage the qualities that help us achieve our goals instead of stereotyping and name-calling, we can truly ban bossy.