Meet the Bossy Feminist
Nobody should ever suggest that leadership and assertiveness are mutually exclusive; all sensible people must agree that in order to lead, someone must give directions, and when the time comes for it, that those directions must be given strongly. A great leader, like Germanicus Caesar, knows that at certain times even mutinous soldiers must be courted, and that at others they must be executed, and that only wisdom can discern which is more appropriate.
But I would never agree with Cheryl Sandberg that we should teach all bossy little girls not that they’re bossy, but that they’re natural leaders. I’ve heard plenty of women say that bossy women make great leaders; all of them have made their fellow women miserable.
There’s really only one reason why someone should be leading, at any given point, and that is because he – or, let us say, she – is going somewhere better than where we are leaving. It matters little if someone knows how to command if she’s leading us into poverty, or misery, or off a cliff and into the ocean. John Locke wasn't the man who discovered the value of kings; Solomon (and, I am certain, many gone before him) can be found saying that good kings make the people rejoice, and bad kings make them mourn, and that the quality of a leader – one might say, the purpose of a leader – is determined not by himself, but by the effect he has upon his people.
But almost as though the Enlightenment had never happened and the Bible had never been written, we suddenly find Caananite raiders and Greek tyrants rising all around us: we find hordes of women flocking to power, and most usually being given it unfairly, simply because they want to give orders and then go home and look at themselves in the mirror. The state, the business, and the marriage have no longer to do with the good of those who follow or join her, but she finds value and excitement in her own advancement – under a kind of Divine Right of Queens. She isn't really a leader, but a pretender and usurper of leadership; she claims a right that belongs to the worthy, and she awards it to herself simply because she makes allegiance unpleasant and disobedience miserable. Perhaps in her cold-hearted selfishness and vanity, she’s thoroughly modern. I suppose we should congratulate her on her victory; we’ve all encouraged her toward it.
A leader has always been an interesting animal, but equally interesting are his followers. And I say this because a leader can lead only if he’s a good fit for those who follow him. Place the wrong leader in the wrong place, and he will be powerless – he can shout and throw tantrums and make demands, but men will follow only someone who speaks either to their hearts or their interest. In an obscure Gospel passage, Jesus even states that to receive a prophet in the name of a prophet is to have the reward of a prophet, and to receive an apostle in the name of an apostle is to have the reward of an apostle, and He says this because if we agree that what someone says is good and true, when it is good and true, then we are good and true ourselves – equally, whether we lead or follow.
If this is the case, then we can learn something embarrassing about ourselves today. If we call people leaders simply because they’re assertive, and not because they’re charismatic, or wise, or even right – if we choose our captains simply because they haven't been leaders before – in other words, if we follow not for goodness, nor for benefit, nor for charm, but for the sole benefit of an unworthy leader, then we are the most stupid people who have ever lived. Our ancestors spent their lives determining the purpose and boundaries of legitimate authority; now we grant authority for no reason, and then cheer ourselves for promoting people who treat us like slaves (and certainly we can all agree that women suffer under bad leaders as well). Perhaps this is a kind of progress. Justice demands that we get what we deserve, and ignorant people do not deserve great leaders, whether men or women, George Washingtons or Deborahs.
I would lastly argue that there is a kind of person who’s always assertive whether or not she’s good for anything, and that person is the baby. I want is the baby's only real creed – she may perhaps be born with certain virtues and certain vices, and perhaps her temperament may be naturally agreeable or obnoxious, but we always expect that she will make demands, and that the more young and poorly parented she is, the clumsier her requests will be, and the longer they will remain so. And the clumsiest request that can possibly be made – especially when she isn’t in a position of lawful authority – is a forthright and artless demand.
Some would say that growing up is learning to fight certain things and accept others with equanimity. Some would say that growing up is learning to get what we want, in ways that are good for others, and not at the expense of the things that are objectively better. A bossy woman wants none of this; she wants to fight friend and foe alike, demanding the respect due to queens and cherishing the manners of a baby, all the while insisting that her vice be considered virtue, while every man is expected to be...a man. She should instead learn how to pursue great things and appeal to others' interests – not by appealing to sexual desires, which is the other major error of the modern woman, but by making those around her, by her hard work, good decisions, and a general concern for mutual success and happiness, desire her to lead.
All good men know this, and they always have. The man who doesn't is known as a jerk or hated as a tyrant. It is time the feminist learned not to be obnoxious.
To learn to be a great leader, then – to balance hard words and soft speech, to win hearts and set wise goals, to know when to lay the law and extend a hand in mercy, to live with justice and equity, to know the difference between peace and war and between friends and enemies – this should be the goal of the ambitious. And if a woman wants to be a great leader, let her learn to be a great person by giving good orders first to herself and speaking with grace. Then, if she can prove herself worthy of command, let her command for the good of others.