Watch your step…
Over the past few days I’ve seen some significant buzz concerning the use of the word “bossy” to describe little girls. The idea is that the word is very negative and shuts down future female leaders who don’t want to be called bossy or disliked.
It’s a valid point.
Truthfully, it’s not a word I’m accustomed to hearing applied to me personally. I tend to listen more than I speak. I’m not at all choleric in my design, and I don’t usually feel a need to take charge of things. I’m a type B introvert, a Melancholy-Phlegmatic, and a recent Meyers-Briggs/Kinsey Temperament Sorter INFJ convert after years of testing as an INTJ. I’m quite capable and willing to be one of the pack, although if you tell me it’s my doghouse, I’m also quite capable of being the HBIC and yes—I will bark. But I don’t bark in other people’s doghouses, and I don’t go around looking for a doghouse to commandeer.
It just ain’t my style.
Nevertheless, I rarely park somewhere very long before being offered leadership opportunities. It holds true across most areas of my life.
I didn’t understand that for a very long time because I associated being a leader with being, well, bossy. Which I’m not. I associated leadership with being about what a person does, not who a person is. It never occurred to me that I was invited to leadership because of who I am and how I think and approach life.
But somewhere along the way I began to catch on. It was, and is, uncomfortable, and I realize that it’s uncomfortable because I’m still sorting out how I feel about being a leader who is more about being than performing. But it freed me to learn to live a lifestyle of leadership, which is more than having roles or positions.
I also had a major paradigm shift about leadership, one that is still shaking out in my life. It affects my parenting, my relationships, and frankly, how I do all of life. And it comes from a golden nugget in the book of Proverbs.
Rabbit trail: Listen…even if you don’t dig the Bible in general (which I do), the book of Proverbs rocks. All kinds of useful tidbits for how to navigate life without getting your eye shot out. Who doesn’t need more common sense? Seriously, you should read it. Google it if you don’t have a Bible.
Anyway, this is how it goes:
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
In a nutshell, this is what it means: you can have abundant growth and production, or you can have a neat and tidy system. But you really can’t have both.
Oxen are strong. They pull plows, they pull harvesters, they pull wagons loaded with produce, they work. But wherever oxen are, there’s poop. It smells bad, and the oxen step in it and spread it around, and then the folks who are trying to care for the oxen end up with it all over their shoes. Everyone stinks, because that is the nature of dealing with oxen. You want an abundant harvest? Then you gotta give up control. You gotta give up on the idea of a sanitary manger.
Freedom and creativity mean a lot to me. You know what happens when people are free to be creative? Like, really free? They learn and stretch and grow, and eventually you get to see them at their glorious best, the way God designed them to be, and they will do amazing things. You know what else happens? They make messes. Train wrecks, disasters, spectacles, mountains of ox poop.
If you try to set up a situation in order to limit the mess, you introduce control. And when you introduce control, you introduce fear.
Nothing kills freedom and creativity faster than fear.
So rather than fearing the mess of ox poop, I am learning to associate it as the precursor for an abundant harvest. It’s the smell of freedom.
Besides, handled properly, ox poop is excellent fertilizer.