Bossing it

It seems no one likes a show off, but those bossing it are likely also winning it.

“If you are bossing the situation, you are running it. You are in control of what’s going on. You do not follow, you lead the herd.” urban dictionary

The thing is that culturally in places like Australia no one really likes a smart-arse. That irritating person who acts like they know everything (even if they do). “Who do they think they are, better than me!?”

Human nature is to prefer people who are humble and gracious in their abilities, as no one likes a show off. We prefer a shrinking violet, modest and even shy in not attracting attention, than a tall poppy. People of high status are resented, attacked, cut down or criticised because they have been classified as superior to their peers.

This negatively impacts our community, young to old, and discourages those striving for greatness for themselves and others.

It all gets in the way of how everyone from school students to our corporate and government leaders set BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOALS for the future that may seem somewhat egotistical, yet are critical in creating the game changers of the future. From recent research studies we have conducted on topics as diverse as building successful growth start-ups and enterprises, to mental health and well-being of our young people, the topic of bossing one’s own place in the world, rather than just following the herd, has surfaced.

In our schools, normalising ‘being smart’ and even above average is critical to learning, and success in life. Some schools encourage and embrace diversity and ‘being smart,’ and others do not. For example, schools with lower socio-economic status and over-representing disadvantaged and vulnerable students, tend to have a lower level of class room engagement, reduced normalising of being okay to be smart. Peer group pressure can normalise average or below, or more importantly not standing out or being a tall poppy. This can mean students not achieving their full potential and unlock opportunities.

“Effective teachers instil in every student an expectation of success. They recognise that student motivation, engagement and self-belief can drive student achievement — and vice versa. When students achieve success, their self-esteem lifts and they become more engaged, which leads to even better performance. Competence breeds self-esteem and confidence, which in turn breeds greater competence.”Engaging Students, Creating Schools that improve learning Grattan Institute research 2017

Further, there is growing pressure on school students to study more so to improve vocational opportunities in an ever increasingly complex and ever-changing employment market and time of uncertainty. Rather than finding and excelling in subjects they illustrate aptitude and passion towards, young people are increasingly guided, and even pressured, by parents and schools to find a viable vocational pathway, otherwise how will they ever get into the housing market et cetera, and have pressure to follow a somewhat proven pathway. School age children are exposed to images of normal on social media and are more exposed than ever of the challenges of life locally and beyond. The world has more opportunity than ever, but this is often more overwhelming than exciting.

The question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” is scary, and is having concerning impact on mental health and well-being of young people. Rather than seeing school as encouraging them that it is okay to be smart, and simply excel at maths, science or whatever they are bossing, to get the foundations right and maximise opportunities moving forward, or even to follow their passion, they are production lined to a future study and career pathway.

Discussions around STEM and the likes are potentially great, but are they truly creating the leaders of the future, confidently bossing it? We risk discouraging our potential future scientists, entrepreneurs and leaders to confidently tread their own paths, the unknown. To protect our young people, are we producing graduates more similar than confidently unique?

Similarly, as markets get more competitive, the tendency can be to offer more choice in an attempt to attract more customers and revenue, widening rather than deepening their offering. They become a ‘jack of all trades and a master of none’. The offering across a wide range of products and services becomes mediocre at best. They fail to truly ‘boss’at anything, lacking the confidence and competency, be this conscious or unconscious competence.

Perhaps they fear being accused as a tall poppy or a smart-arse, or even that it is too risky to be different to the category norm.

Businesses often find it difficult to stick to their knitting, to work towards becoming the zen master. To work towards bossing it. So, no one really wins. The business continues to compete in an increasingly competitive and confusing market, and with this profit margins reduce, product and service quality deteriorates, unhappy customers are discouraged to switch as it is “better the devil you know,” and survival is much more difficult and risky for businesses offering more choice but less different.

Competition does not support collaboration.

Leadership is hard, and takes boldness, clarity and confidence. A company wide philosophy of bossing it, individually and as a team towards their medium to long-term BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOAL (BHAG). For businesses this comes back to being clear about the core strengths, market gaps and trends, and investing time and money into become a confident and resilient zen master in said sweet spot, ever perfecting their offering, the value, price and strategy. For our young people bossing it is about having your very own ‘BHAG’, that fire in your belly, idea in your mind or tick in your heart that drives you, that passion, bossing the basics (one step at a time) and knowing it is more than okay to be smart.

Do not fear bossing it away from the herd.

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