The boss: the person in charge, but also, someone who gives orders in a domineering manner (to boss). The Leader: the person who leads or commands, but also a guiding or directing head of a movement. Even by definition, which would you want to be?
When it comes to workplace management, the choice is yours. Do you want to boss (people around) or lead (a movement)?
What It Means to Be the Boss
At some point in history, perhaps, people may have had tremendous respect for the boss: what he said (and yes, he was almost always a “he) was The Law, and you obeyed unquestioningly. Such a structured culture of obedience still exists in pockets of society, such as in the military, and many managers unwittingly adopt “boss-like” characteristics.
“The boss” requires two assumptions:
- That the boss is basically infallible, and certainly knows more than everyone else or, in some capacity, has “earned” the right to be obeyed.
- That the employee doesn’t have the need or the right to question authority, and instead serves as a cog in the wheel, with the boss at the helm.
Under certain conditions, The Boss model may even work, such as when you need all of the cogs and wheels to operate as one unified whole. However, in most cases, since human beings generally prefer to be treated as individuals, a more effective method of business operation is that of being a leader.
What It Means to Be the Leader
Leadership styles vary, with no single approach necessarily superior to all other styles. Yet, effective leadership has several common qualities that any manager can adopt (whether at the very top of the organization or simply in charge of a single task).
Here are six key qualities to focus on to be an effective leader:
- Honesty—Your team will trust you when they know you are honest, genuine, and not phony. You can even care enough to tell the “hard truths,” but if you stick to the honest facts the truth is respected, even when it is tough.
- Confidence—Confidence is a two-way street, like trust: you place people on a job you feel they can do, and then you trust that they will complete it. You delegate. Leaders demonstrate that kind of confidence, as well as confidence in their own abilities.
- Communication—You don’t have to be the most outgoing person to be an effective leader, but you need to be willing to clearly communicate: about an upcoming task and financial projections, about past mistakes or organizational failures, and about clearly stated expectations for performance. The more straight-forward, but kind, your communication, the easier for your team to follow your lead.
- Responsibility—Mistakes happen at every level; the ability to take responsibility for mistakes is the mark of great leadership. That doesn’t mean you let your team walk all over you: it means that you demonstrate and lead by example the qualities of persistence and grace under pressure (or even failure).
- Mentorship—A leader aims to grow other leaders, recognizing the long-term contributions and opportunities available through workplace mentorship.
- Vision—A leader imagines success, improved business management, and better service—and inspires the entire team to take part in and contribute to that vision. A leader recognizes that mission and vision drive the best team members, and shares that vision.
Author E.M. Kelly summed it up well when he said, “A boss says ‘Go!’ A leader says ‘Let’s Go.’”
So let’s go and lead the way to a prosperous 2017, inspiring our team to share that vision.