There’s a BIG difference between bosses and leaders, and that difference became apparent to me while I was watching the Star Trek movies, of all things.
When I was home recuperating from bronchitis, I spent a lot of time watching and re-watching Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness — the remakes with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. After a while, something unusual happened (and it didn’t take long). I realized just how inspiring, and unique, Captain Christopher Pike was as a Starfleet Captain. Of course, you don’t have to be a Starfleet Captain to be a leader; however, good leadership definitely stands out among the crowd. You know it when you see it. When that realization struck, I started thinking about the differences between bosses and leaders, and why there are so many of the former and so very few (even rare?) of the latter.
Often the word “leader” is used interchangeably with “boss”, even though both concepts are vastly different. At work, you may hear the phrase “leadership team” or “leadership” when, in fact, people are really referring to “bosses”. And that can lead to perception and expectation troubles from staff. Why? Well, here are some of my thoughts on that…
A boss manages a team to get things done. They can also be a good or bad leader.
A leader empowers people and motivates them. They work hard on behalf of their people. A leader is never a bad boss.
A boss can be loved or hated. That’s because they’re focused on proving something to their own boss, or their own worth, or getting the job done.
Leaders are always loved and respected. That’s because they’re focused on inspiring everyone toward a common goal, and through a process that engages the team.
Bosses don’t always hire people that are better than them. They’re often insecure about their own position to do that. They can also undermine an employees’ advancement for the very same reasons.
Leaders hire the best talent possible, because they know a great team makes everyone, together, look better. And leaders have no self-doubts about developing the talent that works for them.
Employees are often afraid of bosses. They’re afraid of how a boss will react to a mistake. Or what the boss will think of an out-of-the-box, creative idea. Or to speak their mind. All of which undermines progress, and development, and the genuine concept of working together.
But employees will always respect a leader. Because a leader focuses on what the individual is capable of rather than mis-steps taken along the way. They know their talent is human and that the only way to learn, the only way to grow and become better as an employee, is to recognize mistakes have been or will be made, that they’re never made on purpose. Learning and encouragement always develop better employees.
Bosses deliver hard messages with facts. “It is what it is; just deal with it.” Dialogue like that shuts the door and doesn’t offer open conversation.
Leaders deliver hard messages with compassion. “Let’s talk about how this change will impact you.” This kind of conversation invites discussion, and often ends up with inspiration.
- Bosses deliver rhetoric. And sometimes their messages don’t line up. One day they’re saying one thing, and the next they’re saying something else. And that never encourages loyalty or trust among staff. That’s probably because they’re too busy managing their own position rather than focusing on development.
Leaders tell the truth, even when they don’t have all the answers. This shows employees that they’re human, that they don’t know everything, and that they’re willing to be open about it. Lack of knowledge isn’t a shortfall; instead, it’s the means to find out the answers together.
I found this pic on Zig Ziglar’s site that pretty much sums it all up:
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