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.

Why “Bosses” are Poor Leaders

20130202-045559.jpgAre you “The Boss” of the operation? Do you “boss” people around? Are you considered by others to be “bossy?”

I hope not, for your sake and the sake of the people who you are apparently supposed to lead.
The position you have or the title you’ve been given (or maybe gave yourself) might make you a boss but it can’t make you a leader. Being a boss and being a leader are at nearly opposite ends of the management spectrum. The mindset of someone who is a “boss” and the mindset of someone who is a leader are as different as night and day.

Bosses are a dime a dozen. Leaders can be one in a million.

A boss tells. A leader shows. A boss forces compliance. A leader earns commitment. A boss criticizes. A leader coaches. A boss tends to care about themselves. A leader cares about others. A boss is almost always a chore to work for. A leader is always always a joy to work with. A boss confronts with anger. A leader confronts with care. A boss says “I.” A leader says “We.” A boss has no followers. A leader does.

I believe it is impossible to have the mindset of a “boss” and still be a leader. They are just too different. If you see your people as employees then you’re likely a boss, if you see your people as people then you at least have the opportunity to be a leader.

Being a boss might produce some short-term satisfaction but being a leader can produce a lifetime (sometimes many lifetimes) of fulfillment and contentment. Being a leader is actually less stressful than being a boss because your people are moving with you instead of constantly shearing away from you. Being a boss is a job, being a leader is a joy.

So, now that you understand the difference, let me ask you, are you a boss or a leader?