Are you a boss or a leader?

Are you wanting to be a leader in your industry, here’s a few tips on leveling up your game

We have all experienced that BAD boss- one that’s controlling, dominant, and discourages your overall growth in the workplace. Being a leader means thinking outside the box, and embracing one another’s ideas and input. A true leader will motivate the team, and push for excellence!

Most people reach a point in their career growth where they find themselves in a position of having people report to them. In as much this is a mark for success, it is important to determine the style to employ when engaging with the team. One can approach them as a boss or a leader.

These terms are often used interchangeably but a leader and a boss are two different individuals. A leader is someone who is in charge and convinces other people to follow. They inspire confidence in other people and set things in motion.

A boss on the other hand exercises control and authority. They direct and supervise other people at work.

Professor Douglas McGregor drew on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to theorize two theories of management; theory X and theory Y.

Theory X assumes that managers are bosses who control, dominate and intimidate their employees for fear of losing their position. Bosses avoid responsibility, are motivated by personal interests and do not value the input of their employees.

Theory Y assumes that the managers are leaders. They trust and inspire their employees. They aim for employee success and allow room for experimentation and failure. In return, employees are motivated, enjoy work and want to grow.

What is the difference between the two?

Bosses rely on their position because it is their only source of power or influence. They want to control because that is the only way they feel successful.

Leaders have different sources of power that include;

  • Expert power means the leader has significant skills and uses them to influence how their juniors go about their tasks.
  • Positional power comes when the leader has legitimately earned a position of authority in an organisation.
  • Reward power is seen when a leader can give or take a reward. They influence team members’ behaviour by rewarding or taking away perks.
  • Coercive power is felt when the leader creates a threat. The leader has team members believe that disciplinary action will be taken for behaviour that is unacceptable.
  • Personal power is gained by persuasion. The leader relies on courtesy e.g. saying please and thank you after a team member has performed certain tasks.

Bosses fear allowing their teammates to exercise independence in their thoughts, decision making or act on their behalf. Leaders on the other hand promote and harness the skills of their employees to enhance the proficiencies and confidence levels.

Bosses push, Leaders lead

Bosses tend to push their employees to complete tasks instead of motivating them. These types of employers do not make decisions or chart a way forward. They force employees to work without guidance, deliverables or expectations.

All this time, the boss is hiding behind a wall of inaction. They will also not take responsibility. They will always have someone to throw under the bus. Employees lose respect in the long run.

Leaders will motivate and inspire their employees which makes them want to lead by example. They frequently present ideas and work to their employees. They clearly communicate organisational objectives and how to achieve them. The team naturally develops confidence in their leader hence improving the work culture.

Leaders listen, bosses domineer

Good leaders spend most of their time listening to their employees rather than speaking. They understand the value of seeking and accommodating different opinions in decision making. They do not just hear complaints, they provide solutions.

A leader uses their resourcefulness to equip the team with everything they need. They can sense stress and transform it into something positive. Bosses want to dominate. They expect employees to listen and carry out commands with no objection and little direction.

They want to control every detail by telling their employees what, how and when to do certain tasks. They also talk more than they listen. They are also dishing out criticism because their authority comes from their position.

Bosses are ego driven and see people as a means to an end. Through their actions, they can communicate that to their employees Leaders however, model servant leadership. They look at people as unique individuals, contributors. They let their employees know that by communicating to them.

Bosses force people to do what they do not want to do. They do this to get what they need or want. Leaders strive to show people what they are getting for contributing quality work for themselves, the team and organisation.

Bosses are comfortable without diversity and inclusion while leaders are uncomfortable without it. Leaders guarantee that all members of the team are treated fairly. They ensure that the employees feel valued and experience a sense of belonging.

Having a diverse and inclusive workplace is a business catalyst that enables organizations to tap into developing markets, widen the talent pool and strengthen the company reputation.

Who is better?

Based on the few differences that we have discussed above, a leader is definitely better. A leader strives to be a people person. They are sensitive to people’s needs and feelings. In a nutshell, a boss will always tell what to do while a leader is out to lead the way and by example.

Whether as a leader or a boss, power can be abused. Many factors can influence a leader to abuse power. Some include;

Periodically reminding employers that they can be fired anytime. Even if it is on a light note, this should never happen in a workplace. One time I was employed in an organization that had not put all systems and structures in place.

The working environment was not conducive as everyone kept shifting goal posts by manipulating the existing policies in their favour. I remember one manager who kept reminding us that they could fire and immediately have us replaced. Needless to say that most of us were gone before that year ended.

Embarrassing employees in front of others. AS a leader, you will have to discipline your employees at some point. When discussing their behaviour, talk to them as if you were addressing your peer. Do not talk them down. Although it is your job to discipline your employee, treating them well and respectfully should come first.

Do not do it in front of their peers. Call them aside and explain to them why their behaviour is a problem. Make sure to get all the sides to the story before deciding on the corrective measure to use.

They base their employee’s performance on their performance on what they remember they did. They do not review performance on a given period of time. They review what they can remember. They keep reminding their employees of all the mistakes they made that cost the company.

They may also play games with performance review and raises by ensuring that the employee signs the review is signed just before the raise effected. Normally, this is to prevent the employee from adding comments that may attract the attention of the overall management.

How to use leadership in power

According to Lord Aton, “power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts completely.” Leadership will always be accompanied by power and regardless of how humble a title is, one will be faced by choices on how to use their power. As a leader, here are some ways of using the power that your position attracts.

Use power to serve others

Apart from being out there working with their employees, leaders need to ensure that their employees are being served. Happy employees translate to happy clients and customers. If a leader believes that an employee can do better, they should empower them by helping them find a better role in the organisation or elsewhere. Alternatively, the leader can enrol them for a course to improve their skills.

Submit to authority. Leaders also need to learn to submit to the power of others, collaborate with team members, employees as well as be aware of the effects of power. Learning to be a follower is an essential aspect of a leader who uses their power appropriately.

Keep ego in check. Ego is an enemy of good leadership. That corner office, bigger salary, nice car or attention can inflate one’s ego making one easy to manipulate. It narrows down one’s vision causing them to act against their values.

As a good leader, it is important to consider your privileges as factors that enable you to do your job effectively. Be around people who have the confidence to speak up as they will often put you in check.

Willingness to share power. Some leaders may feel threatened by others who seem to have good ideas or a solid understanding of the company. As a result, they knock them down even before they can gain a bearing. It is important for a leader to acknowledge and recognize that they cannot achieve company goals alone. They need a team. They therefore welcome the input of others without feeling the need to protect their position.

So, are you a boss or a leader? What do your employees say about you?

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