Boss – Leader

by Ron Potter

On LinkedIn the other day, Fabio Moioli displayed a chart with the differences between a Boss and a Leader.  I thought it was well done and here are the ten he listed:

Touchy, Feely Consultant

The more I looked at the list the more powerful it became.  I’ve had bosses that fit mostly in the Boss category and a few bosses that fit into the Leader category.  I had a very successful consulting career for 30 years.  As I looked at the list and thought about how I conducted my consulting work, I believe much of the success I experienced was due to the fact that I worked off the Leader list as much as possible.  It also struck me that it had been very difficult functioning as a helpful consultant when the person I was working with believed very much in the Boss list.

I remember one vice president who functioned on the Boss side of the ledger.  To start with, he could just not figure out why his boss had hired me to help him with his leadership skills.  After all, he had been very successful (in his mind) working on the Boss side of the ledger.  Why on earth would he need this touchy, feely consultant?  He just didn’t get it.

Almost everyone who had worked for him over the years had either asked for a transfer or left the company.  When I asked him about that statistic, he considered them weak and blamed them for their failures.  It obviously had nothing to do with him.

Boss vs Leader

If you’re in a leadership position, think about each of those terms.

  • When you’re talking about the success of your group, are you talking about the great example you presented so that your team would do the right thing?
  • When you give an assignment to one of your direct reports, do you explain every detail and how you want it done, or do you allow them to be creative?  I’ve worked with people who had that micromanaging boss and it wasn’t long before they stopped taking any initiative and just waited for the boss to tell them what to do.
  • It’s easy to criticize.  It takes work and discipline to encourage when things go wrong.  I’m a football fan.  You can always tell what kind of coach you’re watching just by how they treat their players when the player makes a mistake.  Those who encourage the player and help them learn build great teams full of players that want to do their best.
  • Focusing on weaknesses vs strengths can be a tough one.  I don’t believe it’s a good idea to ignore weaknesses but it’s also important to help your team learn from their weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
  • I’ve also been in team meetings where the boss never shuts up.  Pretty soon most of the participants tune out what is being said and never learn.  The leader who listens and encourages grows great teams.
  • Whether they intend to or not, bosses are always inspiring others.  They either inspire fear or enthusiasm.  Inspiring fear brings the growth of a team to a halt.  As a leader, make sure others are inspired to be enthusiastic and do better.  Growing teams become powerful teams.

Easy to Get Trapped

It’s very easy to remain a Boss when you should be a Leader.  Being a Leader brings risks.  If the team fails, you feel like you’re failing.  But don’t make the mistake of believing that being a Boss will eliminate failure.

The best approach to becoming (or remaining) a Leader is to have a confidant who will tell you the straight story.  This confidant may be an outside or inside consultant.  It may be someone on the team who you trust and who is not afraid to tell you straight out how you’re performing.  It may be someone totally removed from the work environment that you can talk with and be straight with and they’ll be straight with you.

But all of these things are difficult to see on your own.  It takes a partner of some sort who you trust will give you the straight scoop.

Being a Leader

It’s difficult to be a Leader.  It takes hard work, good listening skills, and a lot of humility.  Find someone you trust who you can be honest with and they’ll be honest with you.  It will pay you great rewards.

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