Are You a Boss?

First a disclaimer: this is NOT a political post. One of the Democrats running for President in 2020 gave an interview the other day. During the interview she provided a great example of the difference between being a boss and being a leader. This is a person I first met many years ago and occasionally come across at an event if we both happen to be attending. This is a person I mostly admire. This is someone who seems to me to be a nice enough person who is intelligent and hard working. 

 

This is also a person who projected a very poor image of herself in the interview. And I don’t think she knows it. 

 

Much of the early publicity surrounding this candidate has been focused on her reportedly poor treatment of her staff. Her office has one of the highest turnover rates of any member of Congress. She is apparently more than a little challenging to work for. 

 

She was attempting to defend herself in the interview and in doing so she demonstrated not only why she was a difficult boss but a poor leader as well. 

 

She said she was a boss and as a boss she had to be hard on her people. She said she had high expectations for her staff and when they let her down she let them know about it. She said she expects her people to produce a good “product” and that oftentimes the product was her image.

 

I wondered, I was amazed actually, how someone who has accomplished so much could possess such backwards thinking when it came to leading her staff. 

 

The mindset of a boss says it’s the workers job to make the boss look good. The mindset of a leader says it’s the leader’s job to help their people succeed. If you think there is a fine line between the two then you may be a boss, you may be an excellent manager but you are most definitely not a leader. 

 

A typical boss will drive and push their people to achieve results. A leader will push, pull, motivate and sometimes even carry their people to success. They frequently do it from the middle and sometimes from behind. They most often do it while being along side their people.

 

A leader knows that they are responsible for the success of their people. They know that they can’t succeed unless their people succeed. They don’t try to “make” their people succeed they “help” them succeed. 

 

Too many bosses try to force their people to drink from the well of success. Authentic Leaders walk with their people to the well while helping them develop a thirst for success along the way. 

 

If you are someone who believes that you must be hard on your people because you are “the boss” then you will always have problems with your people. They will underperform as long as you’re their boss and you’ll be even harder on them as a result. 

 

When they eventually leave and go to work with an actual leader they will begin to reach their potential. You’ll be left to wonder why they wouldn’t work that hard for you. You’ll become a resentful boss and push the people left around you even harder. And the cycle will continue as long as you think being a boss means being hard on people. 


I’m going to bet that this particular candidate is like the vast majority of people in leadership positions. The vast majority of people in leadership positions have zero leadership training. It doesn’t make them bad people, it doesn’t make them poor managers, it doesn’t even make them poor politicians. It just makes them exceptionally poor leaders.


It’s Not About You

Before you were a leader you were primarily responsible for your own success. Once you accepted the mantle of leadership you became responsible for the success of the people you lead as well. 

 

Sadly, too many people in leadership positions never make that transition. That’s one reason they never become Authentic Leaders. They remain in competition with their people for recognition and credit for a job well done. The burden of responsibility for the success of others is too much for them to bear. 

 

That burden however is willingly and sacrificially accepted by Authentic Leaders. They accept the responsibility of investing a part of themselves in another person’s success. They celebrate the success of their people even more than their own. 

 

They demonstrate that willingness by showing their people that they care about them. They see time helping their people as an investment and not an expense. They are available to their people to assist them and offer advice whenever and wherever it is needed. 

 

Authentic Leaders know that their success as a leader will be judged on the accomplishments of the people they lead. They know that their leadership is not about them, it is all about their people. 

 

An Authentic Leader’s focus must be on the people they lead. 70% to 80% of their time should be invested in people development. That development can take on many forms. But there should be very little human interaction where people development isn’t at least a secondary goal. 

 

The glory for an Authentic Leader comes not from their own success but from helping others achieve more than they dared dream was possible. True leaders build others leaders. They encourage, inspire and instigate success in their people. 


If you’re a leader who is measuring your success based only on your personal accomplishments then you are basing it on all the wrong things. Unless of course your accomplishments include a solid history of helping other people achieve their own level of greatness. 

 

 

 

Do You Know Your Leadership CF?

The best leaders, well I don’t know if best is the right word but the most effective leaders, those who make a long-term positive difference, have a high CF. 

 

Their CF is on display daily. They are intentional in making sure as many people as possible see it. Their CF is not merely a veneer they paint on when in the presence others; their CF is a part of their DNA, it’s who they are, all day every day. 

 

Their CF, or Care Factor is genuine. They truly care for the people they lead, in fact they care for people in general. 

 

Can a leader be effective without caring for people? Well yes, they can… for a while. History is full of examples of leaders who didn’t care about people appearing to be effective. The key word there is “appearing.” They appeared to be successful leaders because in the short-term, compliance can be confused for commitment. 

 

People in leadership positions can force people to comply and that compliance can and often does result in short-term success. The problem with compliance is that it lasts only as long as the leader. When the leader is gone, whether it be for a long lunch, a weeks vacation or something even longer, the compliance goes with them. 

 

When someone in a leadership position has a high Care Factor then they have the opportunity to authentically lead. These leaders don’t need the compliance of their people because they earn their commitment. When a high CF leader is not present the commitment from their people continues whether the leader is there to see it or not. 

 

It’s important for a leader to know their CF, they must know it and be consciously aware of the need to grow it at every opportunity. But as important as it is for a leader to know their CF, it is vital that their followers know it. 

 

That’s why Authentic Leaders do more than say they care. They show it. They get to know their people on a personal level. It’s important to understand what I mean by “personal level.” It doesn’t necessarily mean you have a personal social type relationship with them. It does mean that you know more about them, way more, than their employee number. 

 

Leaders interested in showing they care invest time in their people. They learn about their goals, both personal and professional, and do what they can to help them achieve both. They understand the challenges of their people, again both personal and professional and do whatever they can to help in both areas. 

 

The definition of Authentic Leadership will likely be debated until the end of time but this much is certain. You can care about people without leading them but you cannot authentically lead them without caring for them. 


If you’re truly going to lead then you’ll need to care enough to do more than say you care. You must care enough to show it!

Not Every Leader Leads – Part Two

In my last post we talked about following an ineffective leader. We also discussed working through the frustration that comes with that situation. 

 

If you can manage to work through the frustration and lead yourself you are way ahead of most people. Too many people spend their days wallowing in their lack of leadership. They should be focused on leading themselves to success. 

 

If you have the leadership skills to deal with the frustration of following a leader who doesn’t lead then it’s likely you also have the leadership skills to “lead up” in your organization.

 

Leading up is the second part of the process for overcoming the lack of leadership when you’re working with a leader who doesn’t lead. Here’s the thing about “leading up” in your organization; while it is absolutely necessary when your leader isn’t leading it is also beneficial when your leader is already an effective leader.

 

If you’re a leader at any level in your organization then you should be adding value to everything and everyone you have contact with. I know it can seem counterintuitive to help people succeed at some cost to your own success but that’s Authentic Leadership. If you can help anyone then you should help them. It is the right thing to do. While it may feel as if you’re potentially costing yourself a promotion or raise by helping other people look good you’re not.  

 

Doing the right thing is never wrong. 

 

So, let’s talk about the “how to” of leading up. First before you can lead anyone else you must lead yourself. Allowing the frustrations of your position or job to dominate your thoughts and actions is not leading yourself. 

 

You must maintain control over your emotions because failing to do so will have a huge negative affect over your attitude. When it comes to influencing those around you, especially those above you in your organization, attitude is everything. If you can’t control your emotions then you won’t control your attitude. 

 

To lead up in your organization you need to remove as much work as possible from your leader. That will inevitably mean doing more than what’s in your job description. It will frequently mean doing it will little or no recognition, at least for you. Trust the fact that someone notices your effort. Even in the very unlikely event that no one does you can take pride in your efforts because you will have done what’s right. 

 

Leading up requires that you have the ability to say no to your leader. Whether your leader is an effective leader or something less than effective they need someone in their sphere of influence who has the courage to tell them the truth. Sometimes that will mean telling them what they don’t what to hear. If you’re going to lead up you’ll need to find a tactful way to do that. 

 

Leading up also means doing the things that others are unwilling to do. Anyone can do the easy stuff; leaders who lead up tackle the tough jobs that other people avoid. Making a difference for the people above you, or anywhere in your organization, will sometimes mean sacrificing your personal objectives for the sake of others. It may mean working with people you would prefer not to work with. But leading up teaches you tenacity and resiliency that people unwilling to lead up with never know. 

 

The reality is that there are people in leadership positions all around the world who don’t actually lead. If you find yourself being “led” by one of those don’t allow your attitude to be impacted by the lack of leadership.

 

Choose to control your emotions. Choose to lead up in your organization. Make the choice to have a positive impact on those who could have a negative impact on you. 


All is takes is a decision to LeadToday!


I Just Don’t Know

“I just don’t know” may sound like weak words to many people. But to Authentic Leaders and their followers they are some of the most powerful trust building words that can be spoken.

 

Leadership is not about knowing it all. It’s not even about knowing more than the people you lead. Leadership begins with integrity and at the heart of integrity is honesty. Trying to fool people into believing you know more than you do causes immense damage to your credibility. When your credibility is gone integrity soon follows it out the door and so does your opportunity to authentically lead. 

 

Saying “I just don’t know” is not a sign of weakness in a leader, it is a sign of authenticity, a sign of honesty. It is a sign that the leader has enough confidence in what they do know to admit what they don’t. 

 

In every successful endeavor I’ve undertaken it succeeded because I knew what I didn’t know. But I was able to find people to work with me who could fill in my gaps. In pretty much every endeavor I’ve undertaken that didn’t succeed I either couldn’t find people to fill my gaps or, and this is far more likely, I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. (Or perhaps I was just fooling myself)

 

I’m sure at some point I figured out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did but by that point I could not bring myself to admit it to others. That caused a myriad of problems. Upon reflection everyone of those problems came from the fact that I wasn’t a strong enough leader to say, “I just don’t know.”

 

One thing I’ve learned without a doubt in this: if you’re pretending to know more than you actually do others will see through your charade sooner or later. When that happens you’re not likely to ever lead them again. Trust me, I’ve been on both sides of this, that’s just how it works. 

 

I’ve grown through the years and now I’m almost proud to string the words, “I just don’t know” together. Others may think that makes me weak but I know that makes them something other than an Authentic Leader. 

 

Courage is a basic requirement for Authentic Leadership. It will sometimes take courage to admit when you don’t know something, especially when it’s something that many people think you should know. 

 

Don’t damage your credibility by pretending to know more than you do. Summon the courage of an Authentic Leader and admit your knowledge gap and then find the people who can help you fill it. 


Leaders don’t know it all and there is no requirement that they do. Authentic Leaders know that much for sure!

The Reward of Leadership

Managing people might be the most difficult, least rewarding thing a person can attempt.

 

On the other hand leading people is actually far easier and way more rewarding. In fact, leading people is one of the most rewarding things anyone can ever do. 

 

I don’t want to give anyone the impressive that leading others is easy, it’s just easier, far easier, than attempting to manage them. It’s easier because managing people is impossible. It’s impossible because people refuse to be managed. 

 

People need and want leadership not management.

 

Leadership is about people while managing is about things. If you’re trying to manage people then you’re treating those people like things and that doesn’t work. 


There are no doubt managers reading this who believe managing and leading are one and the same. I can only wonder how they have time to read anything considering how many problems they create for themselves with that kind of mindset. Could it be they just don’t deal with the problems they create?

 

Most every “people problem” that ends up in an HR Department comes directly from attempting to manage people. The vast majority of turnover comes from managing people. The overwhelming majority of “attitude issues” is directly linked to people feeling managed instead of led. When you keep in mind that over 70% of employee terminations result from some form of attitude issue it seems like it would be a good idea to not create even more. 

 

Managing people may seem easier than investing a part of yourself in leading them but attempting to manage another human being is like attempting to go boating without water. It’s not going to happen. 

 

While leading others requires a greater investment by the leader in the lives of those they would lead the return on that investment can be huge. It can be life altering, for both the leader and the led. It is richly rewarding and it’s a reward that money cannot buy. 

 

Authentic Leaders, and particularly Authentic Servant Leaders, lead because they want to make a positive difference in the lives of those they lead. A simply thank you from their people is worth more than all the tea in China. That thank you is pure gold. Knowing you’ve made a positive difference for someone is why true leaders lead.

 

Okay, time for an aside here….my dad would frequently say something was worth more than “all the tea in China.” Having been to China only once I didn’t notice an unusually large amount of tea. Does anyone know where that saying came from? 

 

Anyway, if you want to make a difference in the life of someone else then try to manage them. It won’t be a difference they will thank you for but it will be a difference they will remember. If you want that difference to be positive then make the effort to authentically lead them. 


Knowing you have made a positive difference in the life of another person is a reward that money will never be able to buy. 


Unleash the Power of Your People

I have been around long enough to see buzz-words come and go. Now as it turns out I’ve been around long enough to see some of them that came and went come back again. 

 

One of those words is empowerment. 

 

A couple of decades ago it was said that the Boomer Generation wanted to be empowered to think for themselves and make some decisions. They wanted to feel as if they mattered. They needed to know that their thoughts and opinions carried a little weight….even at their places of employment. 

 

Consultants blanketed companies sharing this wisdom with anyone who would listen. (and pay for it) The business leaders of the day quickly adopted this word as a kind of cure-all for whatever was ailing their organization. 

 

The word hung around for a long time; until people figured out that telling someone they were empowered and actually empowering them were two very different things. 

 

The word faded a bit from prominence but never went away completely. Some organizations were actually successful in empowering their people. For most however it was more of a rallying cry than an actual business strategy. 

 

With all of the “what do Millennials want” research going on the empowerment word is again buzzing about organizations like bees in a flower garden. The research seems to show that one of the key strategies to engage the Millennial generation is to empower them. 

 

So here we go again. Or do we? 

 

My own, albeit somewhat limited, experience with Millennials tells me that they won’t be fooled by mere words. They don’t just want to be empowered, they need to be empowered. They need to matter, they need to make a difference. 

 

If they are not challenged and given the opportunity to grow at the job they have then they will find another place to work. A place that will challenge and empower them. There may not have been plentiful opportunities for Boomers to change jobs 20 years ago but there are tons of opportunities today. If your Millennial employees are not challenged and empowered, for real, they will simply leave.

 

Companies may have been able to get away with talking empowerment in the past but these days they have to actually empower their people. 

 

Empowerment is authorizing a person to think. It is allowing them to take action, control work and make decisions about their job in autonomous, self-directed ways. It is feeling self-empowered to take control of one’s own destiny.

 

If your people have to wait for permission, authority or approval to take action then you may be saying they are empowered but they are not. They absolutely are not. 

 

The reason empowering cultures fail at most organizations is that empowering people comes with a level of risk that most leaders are not willing to accept. I think they figure that because it’s their rear-end on the line that they should be making the decisions. 

 

That’s understandable but it is also a managerial mindset, not a leadership mindset. 

 

Authentic Leaders allow their people to take measured risk. They don’t let their people take crazy chances but they trust the people they hire enough to let them try new things. Even things that they as the leader wouldn’t have tried themselves. 

 

Authentic Leaders let their people think. They know that if everyone is thinking just like them then they aren’t really thinking at all. You must allow and even encourage your people to share their ideas without fear of criticism or consequences. The moment one of your people hesitates to speak up or share an idea is the same moment that empowerment stops. 

 

Authentic Leaders allow their people to make decisions. Even decisions they know are probably wrong. They won’t let them make millions dollar mistakes.  But they know letting them mess up decisions that could cost the company some money can be some of the most cost effective training they will ever receive. 

 

If you’re hiring good people then unleash the power of those people by truly empowering them.  Let them take some risks, let them think and let them make some decisions on their own, even some big decisions from time to time. 


A couple of decades ago companies could get away with talking about empowerment. That won’t work today. If you refuse to empower tomorrow’s leaders today then you put the very life of your organization at risk.