It isn’t just Boss vs. Leader. Its Boss, Leader and Managers who follow leaders.

We see them posted everywhere. Boss vs. leader, my favorite is when I talk to a boss I feel like they are important. When I talk to a leader I feel like I am important. Those always forget the third one, When I talk to myself everyone looks at me funny.

I’ve had bosses that were horrific over my career. Bosses, that listen to rumors and don’t hear both sides of the story are number one on the bad boss list. Why do they do that? They have a separate agenda that has nothing to do with help you or growing your career. So anyone that is inconvenient for them, they happily accept rumors and put them in a box.

Boss rule number one: Hear both sides and always make sure you have collected evidence from both sides that shows what you are doing is the right direction.

When I was working for someone that challenged me and inspired me, I could move mountains. I had a leader once that realized he could challenge me. I didn’t realize it until the fact, that he was actually challenging me to get me to achieve. I just wanted to prove him wrong, that I could in fact do what he said I couldn’t do. He smiled after afterwards and said “I knew you could. You didn’t know you could.” That is a leader.

Boss rule number two: Don’t have favorites. It is a weakness when the boss has favorites. Not only of the boss and the person picked but eventually it destroys the team. A leader builds a team that is diverse. Leaders walk into meetings and meetings start. Bosses walk into meetings and they force the meeting to start over. Communication is the tool by which a leader shares and grows a vision. Communication is the punishment tool used by a Boss. Having favorites means that when the favorite say’s something, even if it isn’t true, you accept it as fact.

Over the years I’ve had bosses brought in from outside because they were more senior. They were managers. I’ve had bosses brought in because they had a strategic vision. The problem with all of that is in the end, does the team succeed because of or inspire of the boss?

I think the old Buddhist adage applies here more than anything else. The adage “when the student is ready the teacher will appear,” modified “when the team is ready, the leader appears.” You can’t appoint a leader and not end up with a boss sometimes. You can appoint a boss and end up with a leader, but for the most part you have to be really careful. Leaders rise from the team. They understand the pain. They have vision for how things can work.

Boss rule number three: A leader is never the smartest person in the room. A boss is. Bosses lead functioning teams that succeed by force of will. Leaders run with successful teams and the best leaders don’t try to keep up, they protect the backs of their team. That means when you have a conference call can you disagree with one of your team – TAKE IT OFFLINE.

It used to make me said, the number of bosses I encountered. So few of them were leaders. Now, add in the third role, manager. I’ve met bosses that were great managers, and knew they weren’t leaders so they followed great leaders and conveyed that message to the team. Managers, are effective bosses. They put aside the ego that drives us to believe we are leaders. They provide guidance, support and point to a leader’s vision. They, like a leader protect their team’s back. Team’s with leaders, and teams with managers that follow good leaders, produce results.

I hope my three initial rules for bosses helps.


Boss Vs. Leader aficionado…

2 thoughts on “It isn’t just Boss vs. Leader. Its Boss, Leader and Managers who follow leaders.

  1. Great post. My first ten years of my career I worked for many former military officers. Their line was “I’d take a bullet for that guy”. There are very few people that would qualify for this honor in my life. Although, there are a few I would have let a bullet go ahead and hit them!

    1. It is a fine line to walk. Being a good manager is just as important as being a good leader. Good leaders build good managers. Thanks for the comment and thoughts Rob, as always spot on!

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