by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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In a recent leadership development workshop I was conducting with a group of elementary school kids, I asked them a basic starting question, “What is a leader?” They responded with things like:
The main theme to come out of their responses is that they were not actually describing leaders, but rather BOSSES! This is part of the issue when we talk about leaders and leadership, we often intermix our concepts of leaders with bosses. As these kids pointed out, we tend to automatically assume someone has leadership qualities because they hold an impressive title such as President, CEO, Principal, Director, or Captain.
While most likely the people who fill these positions have some natural leadership skills that helped them get to where they are, we cannot assume that bosses are leaders. To move up the ladder in any organization, a person has to show leadership in their actions and words. People who move up are the ones who are taking up leadership of small groups and projects. They live the leadership life on the way up the ladder, and others rally behind them because of their leadership skills. People don’t have to follow them because of some title, but rather they choose to follow them because they see and feel something powerful and motivating in working with these leaders.
The problem is that while leadership skills are used to climb up the ladder, once a positional title is handed out for all of that great work, the leadership skills are often left behind. Leadership skills are replaced with management techniques. Leadership is replaced by authority. Leaders are replaced with bosses. Part of the reason why this happens is that management, power, and authority are so much easier to implement than leadership. It is easier to tell someone what to do then to motivate them to choose to do it. It is easier to tell everyone the plan for success then to build it organically together.
Now don’t get me wrong, being a boss is not always a bad thing. Using management techniques is not a bad thing. There are times that these techniques and approach are absolutely needed. Sometimes you just have to get things done. Sometimes you don’t have the time to build organically. Sometimes you don’t have the time to motivate others. Sometimes you don’t have the time for others to choose to join in the path. Sometimes the boss just needs to get things done.
But when we are not in these dire situations, there is a need to use the leadership skills and techniques that helped us to climb up the ladder. Instead of using positional authority to tell others to do something, we need to find ways to motivate them to do these things. It is crucial to our success as leaders to remember a few key points about the difference between leaders and bosses:
1.Bosses expect respect, leaders earn it
2.Bosses give directions, leaders motivate actions
3.Bosses tell the vision, leaders build it with others
4.Bosses need a title, leaders do not
5.Bosses have employees, leaders have followers
Think about the actions and behaviors of people that you want to follow and then think about the bosses that you never liked working for. Think about the differences between them and then think about your own actions and behaviors. Which group do you fall into? Do people do things because you tell them to do it, or do they do it because they want to do it? Again, as I wrote earlier, there are times where bosses are needed to get things done, but when we have the choice, don’t we want to be leaders? Don’t we want people to achieve greatness because they believe in us? Don’t we want to motivate them to be their best, rather than just doing exactly what we told them to do? So as you climb the ladder recognize the skills, abilities, and actions that others love about you and don’t forget about them because you now have a fancy title! Be a LEADER, not just a BOSS.