I don’t like to have a boss.
For years, I couldn’t admit this to myself.
It felt cocky and egotistical. It felt like I was confessing a character flaw.
I didn’t even have bad bosses to blame. My first boss Karen would buy me a lunch once a week. We’d sit in her office. She’d give me gifts from Aveda for doing a good job and make sure I didn’t have any concerns I needed to share.
My second boss Hal didn’t share my appreciation for Aveda. Yet, he did make me feel smart and supported and capable. He’s also hilarious and kind, which helps.
Still - even with some of the best bosses on the planet - I always bristled at hierarchy.
Then, I had a run-in with a boss that didn’t involve supportive lunches or Aveda. As is my way, I beat myself up about my role in the conflict. Then, I got upset. Then, I started inventing all the reasons I didn’t need to work for this particular boss anymore.
Finally, my husband (as is his way) cut through my bullshit with some well-timed wisdom.
I was making my case for quitting and he looked at me and said, “Sarah, you don’t like having a boss. That’s ok.”
Wait, IT IS?
It felt like a revelation. I didn’t like having a boss and THAT WAS OK.
For so long, I had carried my preference like a burden.
If I didn’t want a boss, that meant I had to BE the boss. What did I know about being the boss? Didn’t you have to be older? Didn’t you have to be an expert? Didn’t you need years of experience?
There was the answer - contained in my husband’s simple observation.
I don’t think it was an accident that this observation came from a man.
As a woman, likability is high on the list of societal requirements. Confidence (especially anything with a whiff of overconfidence) is very, very low.
I got the image above my doing a Google Image Search on the word boss. Almost every single image of a "boss" contains a man. The only woman is using an air horn on a cowering man. I can't make this stuff up, people!
Add in a massive case of imposter syndrome and it’s easy to understand why I was scared to proclaim I loved being in charge.
But, I’ve learned the alternative is much worse. Ignoring my personal boundaries and signing up for work that leaves me frustrated and resentful is simply not worth it. When I don't have real creative freedom and control over my work, I spend too much energy fighting circumstances I can't change and not enough energy producing work of which I can be proud.
For me, work is as much about the process as it is the result. That's not to say I can't be a team player - I can. However, the ability to listen to my own rhythms and follow my own ideas leaves me feeling energized instead of depleted.
Taking charge - unapologetically - is scary and exhilarating but WORTH IT every single time.