I’m sure all of us can identify with having a bad boss- someone who made us hate coming to work everyday. Someone who made us want to purposely mess things up, or daydream about punching them in the face. Hey, I’m being honest. It can be extremely frustrating to work with someone who we can’t understand, or doesn’t make an effort to understand us. And what’s worse? Bad bosses are in much higher supply than good ones. According to recent studies, three out of four employees in the United States report that their boss is the most stressful part of their job; and 65% of employees said they would take a new boss over a pay raise. Yes, they would actually turn down money just to get away from someone who is supposed to be helping them grow. Being completely honest: a “boss” (good or bad) is just a leader not doing their job.
If you are asking yourself what that means, and whether or not a boss and a leader are the same thing, let me clarify. A boss can be anyone in a position of authority. Call it a manager, supervisor, director, grand duke, or emperor, it really doesn’t matter. Anyone can be a boss, but a boss becomes a leader only when he or she is able to do just that: lead. To lead means that you have people willingly following your direction, vision, and goals. To lead well means that they aren’t pulling their hair out while they do it. The truth is, the world doesn't need bosses, the world needs leaders who can get things done without zapping the energy out of their most valuable resource: their people. As I’ve reflected on this principle, I’ve taken time to observe how people around me lead their teams. Some are obvious leaders, others are most definitely bosses. There are a few signs that can help you tell the difference:
The boss speaks, the leader listens
Bosses are always talking. In fact, bosses often spend so much time talking that they have no idea what the people under them need, how they think or what they can offer. Bosses give orders, and tell people exactly how things should be done, leaders give team members an opportunity to participate in the thinking process. They understand that people are more likely to be enthusiastic about ideas they help create, and are more likely to stand behind a team player. Leaders also listen to what is bothering their team. Even if hearing it makes them uncomfortable, they see it as an opportunity to be better. Statistics say that 50% of employees who don’t feel valued will probably find a new job within the year. Imagine how much lower that number would be if leaders were allowing employees to be honest about when they were offended, what is making them uncomfortable, or less productive.
The boss gives orders the leader gives vision
Bosses tell you what to do, leaders inspire you by telling you why you should do it. As a result, the team under a boss remains uninvolved and unmotivated. The best teams are those where everyone believes they are working towards something they believe in, and in order to do that they need a vision to follow. That’s why leaders explain the vision- they talk to their team about final outcomes and goals and teach them how they think they should be accomplished. When a team is aware of the big picture, it becomes easier to get them to give their 100% to see that picture come to life. Otherwise, all they see is someone barking orders at them for personal gain.
The boss is out, the leader is in
A boss is outside of the team, he or she doesn’t have to live by the standards or rules that everyone else has to. But the leader is part of the team- leaders not only talk the talk, they walk the walk. They remove pointless rules and rigid systems, and replace them with standards and guidelines that have purpose (this is also part of giving vision). While bosses are seen as rigid and hypocritical, leaders live what they preach.
The boss judges, the leader measures
Bosses tend to judge whether or not people are working “hard enough” (a ridiculous and subject way of looking at team members), leaders measure outcomes and accomplishments. Bosses micromanage and fuss about whether or not employees have gone to the bathroom too many times. They are looking at appearances, and probably missing what is really there. The only real way to tell whether an employee is being productive is to measure objectively: what were the goals set for “X” period of time? Were they reached? why or why not? Leaders understand that concept of “working hard” is relative. Some employees can do twice as much with only half the effort, and others can be doing their best and produce a little less. In the end, the leader’s job is to make sure everyone is reaching their own individual potential, not harassing them about the time they wasted tying their shoe.
The boss is feared, the leader is respected
Because bosses tend not to listen, to judge, to give orders, and to be outside the team rather than a part of it, they also tend to be feared. The problem with fear is that it’s a terrible motivator. While it may seem to work for a period of time, it eventually turns even the most productive teams into avoiders and procrastinators. No one wants to work with someone they fear, but everyone wants to get behind someone they respect. Doing things like listening to your people, giving them opportunities to use their talents, and casting vision for the team make it easier for members to respect you, and give their best everyday.
Because this is a sight for leaders, let’s be honest: are people struggling to work with us? Granted, being a “boss” is often like having bad breath, everyone knows it but you. Still, I encourage you to examine yourself throughout the week in your different positions of authority, even if it’s at home as a parent or a spouse. Are you using that position to inspire people to be better, to cause them to grow? Or are you yourself being considered a bad boss?