I have watched and listened with interest over recent days after a debate was sparked by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, over the word “bossy”.

In a nutshell, the likes of Beyonce, Victoria Beckham and Condoleezza Rice are saying that it is only women who are called “bossy”, whereas men are praised as “commanding”, or a “leader”. They argue that, because of this choice of language, many women are put off from putting themselves forward as leaders.

If you get past the irony that a group of women, led by Ms Sandberg, are telling the rest of the world not to use the word “bossy”, you find an interesting subject matter in the lexicon of leadership.

Surely, one might argue, to be labelled “bossy” is a reflection of the position of “boss” which one might wish to attain. How often do we see headlines which describe leaders of industry as “business bosses”, whether they are male or female? I dare say that you could flick through the papers on any given day and find it in a headline.

The response to the whole situation has been mixed. Alongside the famous names who have supported the “ban bossy” call, there have been many commentators who have backed the message. However, there have been as many who have said “I am bossy, and I don’t care”.

What is important is that the issue of the glass ceiling that many see as a barrier to leadership for women is getting an airing, even if the subject has been turned into more of an internet Punch and Judy style debate.

In reality, women are often held back from reaching the top of their profession. Sometimes it is due to outdated male misconceptions, but the lack of self-belief, or the concern that they will not be taken seriously, can be as much a barrier.

Women are as capable of leading as men. They are also as capable of being sensitive to the way they are spoken to, if not more so. However, whatever the person’s sex, how someone reacts to any situation or any choice of language, is more a matter of individual personality than chromosomes.

It is down to the people whose job it is to nurture these individuals, to help them to develop into leaders, to gauge what brings the best out of them and what will knock them off track.

Leadership, in the sense of the people who oversee the emergence of new talent, isn’t just about directing a team to achieve the best short-term goals, it is about developing people and understanding what makes them tick, identifying what language or actions inspire or stifle someone’s growth.

Banning “bossy” is a simplistic answer to a much more complex question of nurturing an individual and asks as many questions as it resolves; not least that of whether an individual who is frightened off by being called “bossy” is the type of character who can be “commanding” or a “leader”.

Sue Alderson is a director of Azure Consulting, a Yorkshire-based specialist in leadership development. www.azure-consulting.co.uk. 01924 385600. www.twitter.com/azureconsult