Why assertiveness really matters

Leadership Coach Tanya Livesey on the difference between assertiveness and aggression. How can you effectively make yourself heard, without rubbing people the wrong way, in an industry full of opinions?

Image courtesy iStock/CSA archive

Assertiveness gets bad press. In a male-dominated industry that’s obsessed with winning we tend to associate assertiveness with those who are pushy and domineering, whose loudness is mistaken for confidence and bullishness for strength. So the assertive ideal for leaders can often feel daunting to more sensitive creative types. But this misrepresents assertiveness as its more obnoxious neighbour – aggression – and there’s a fundamental difference between the two, which has everything to do with intent.

Aggression is characterised by the desire to put your own needs first, with little regard for the needs of others. But if your mindset is ‘I win, you lose’, you might score the point but you will rarely win anyone over. What’s less well understood is that the intent of true assertiveness is a ‘win-win’ situation.