“As I heard those words coming out, I wanted to grab them from the air and take them back.”

A few days ago, my son was getting upset with my daughter because she wasn’t playing the game that he wanted her to play.

And I said, “Buddy, why are you being so bossy? You’re not her boss.”

And as I heard those words coming out, I wanted to grab them from the air and take them back.

Because I realized that I was presenting the image of what a boss is, in negative terms. And it got me thinking, why is it that universally, we all understand the word “bossy” to be bad?

I think the answer is simple. I think it’s because humans use language to try and explain their experience and our experience of bosses has quite often been pretty bad. But language changes. Words that once meant one thing can take on a whole new meaning, and culture changes too. And so often those two changes happen at the same time.

When I was younger, to “follow” someone meant something very different to what it means today, in our digital age, culture has changed. Well, the culture of leadership in the workplace is also changing.

People all around the world, in every kind of industry are challenging older, more traditional models of what it means to be a boss and what it means to manage people.

Sometimes when words change, they take on the direct opposite meaning to what they had originally, like “awful”. “Awful” used to mean something that filled you with awe and could inspire you. Now it means something terrible, and it’s hard to imagine how the word can be used positively.

Well, the future I dream of for the workplace is a future where it’s pretty difficult to understand and imagine how the word “bossy” could ever have been anything other than a compliment.

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