Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Are you a Boss or a Leader?

"Dad, Are you a Boss or a Leader?” asked my 14 year old Son. “Why do you ask?” taken by surprise I inquired. “Well, there was a question on this in my English Test. And none of us in my class knew the exact difference between the two. As you’ve been managing for years, I thought you’d know,” he replied. I thought for a while, thought of all Bosses I’ve worked with in my 19+ years career. I didn’t even remember many... but few special moments with couple of them had etched in my memory. “Is this the difference?” I asked myself. But before answering him, I decided to put this question to couple of Managers I know. Though they gave their versions, but I sensed lack of clarity on this. And then it occurred to me to revive this forum sharing my own thoughts on this topic.

The terms ‘Boss’ and ‘Leader’ are not synonyms, but nor are these antonyms. While a Leader can be a Boss, not every Boss is a Leader. Every team has a Boss, but they really need a Leader. A Leader is considered the one who influences surroundings and people (not necessarily reporting to him) to attain desired objectives. Exceptional leadership begins with a positive view of people and ends with remarkable accomplishments. A Leader listens, trusts, inspires, motivates, guides, mentors, coaches, and is always a great partner in his peoples’ journey of success. While a Boss can get things done (through his team) today, a Leader can get things done today, tomorrow, day-after and after. Many Bosses often set their team up to fail (acting as a disabler), whereas all the Leaders always set their people up for success (acting as an enabler). A Leader is always considered as a part of the group and believed to encourage by creating the footsteps to follow. Bosses often just give orders from pedestal (and tend to rule by fear), while Leaders lead from the front and lead by example.

A Boss may have high IQ but often lacks EQ. A Leader possesses both. A Boss only sees things in black and white, while a Leader also sees the grey. A Boss demotivates with impassiveness, while a Leader inspires with caring and empathy. Leaders define a set of core values for themselves and live these values in their everyday life. They are genuine to themselves, their team, their work, their customers, and their surroundings. They treat everyone fairly and equally. In the roller coaster of ups and downs, while Bosses scream (and intimidate into action), the Leaders remain cool, calm and composed, and enjoy the ride (and motivate to action).

One of the key factors that differentiate a Leader from a Boss is personal humility. A Boss, in the aggressive pursuit of recognition, tends to hog the limelight when things run smoothly but points fingers as soon as the ball drops. Leaders, on the other hand, credit others for their success and blame themselves for small bumps along the road to greatness. ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘Myself’ – These are the 3 magic words that Leaders use only when stuck in mud of Failure, while Bosses sing this song only when standing on a Victory Podium. The journey from being a ‘Boss’ to be a ‘Leader’ is same as the journey from Illness(‘I’) to Wellness (‘We’).

A Leader is a great Strategist. He has a clear vision, mission, and a well-defined action plan to execute in pursuit of the mission. A Boss gets lost in the details and just manages to an end, while the Leader keeps the big picture and serves for a purpose. Leaders are not arrogant nor embarrassed to learn from their juniors. At the same time, they are always eager to teach and nurture new professionals. They don’t spoon-feed people but provide them with adequate knowledge and trainings, so that they become an important part of self-sufficient and self-driven task force. Leaders create a fear-free environment and encourage team members to take calculated risks to embrace ambiguities and think out of the box . They are great Execuvators and always follow the ‘Fail often, Fail fast and Fail cheap’ mantra. Leaders know how to multiply the chances of their success using the powerful tool of Effective Delegation.

Leaders are collaborative, flexible, and receptive. They very well understand that success in collaborative efforts is a multi-dimensional affair, not solely defined by ‘Results’ (goal or task accomplished), but also by ‘Process’ (the way or spirit in which effort is carried out) and ‘Relationship’ (the quality of the connections among the people engaged in the effort). While a Boss is mostly concerned with outcomes, a Leader feels responsible for the process of that outcome and the people who see it out. The Leader understands the value of timely and periodic recognition, appreciation and admiration. All ‘great’ organizations embrace collaborative Leaders more than ‘lone wolf’ Bosses.

So, how would you evaluate your management style? Are you a Boss or a Leader? What about your Manager? And the guy sitting in the corner office on your floor?