At one of our dinner conversations, my husband and I talked about how different we are when it comes to raising our 3 children. At one point, he commented that my authoritative stance made me more of a boss than a leader and that I should aspire to be the latter.
It got me thinking about these 2 labels and how important it is to be aware of the small but stark differences. While your team may quickly understand that you’re the “boss” who gives out the day’s orders, your ability to position yourself as a “leader” they can have full confidence in makes all the difference in the way they respond to and work with you.
Wielding authority does not equal leadership
Gone are the days when employees simply nod their heads to the Big Boss who barks out orders and expects a full report by the end of the day.
A positive and thriving company culture that breeds progress and success banks on individuals with unique talents and skills who feel happy and satisfied with the work they do and the people they work with. A boss who’s only interested in meeting goals and turning a profit—and runs the show with intimidation—will ultimately drive people away in frustration and dread.
In short, authority alone doesn’t earn trust and respect. You have to remove yourself from the high pedestal and strike a balance between being in tune with your team’s needs and ideas and leading them toward the ideal end goal.
It’s time to evolve from being a boss to being a leader
So how do you go from being a domineering boss to a positive and innovative leader? Let’s take a look at the impactful characteristics of an ideal leader and how you can apply these to your own situation.
Leaders are figures of positive influence.
Leaders don’t wield authority in order to demand attention and respect. They’re a positive influence that others admire and feel encouraged to emulate.
Leaders direct with everyone’s best interests in mind. They consult with each member of the team and arrive at a solution that both satisfies everyone and moves the project forward.
At your next meeting or brainstorm session, ask each person for their thoughts, suggestions, and feedback, and work together to solve current project issues.
Leaders manage in empathy and kindness.
Unlike the boss who disregards personal setbacks in order to prioritize the task at hand, the leader understands that a company doesn’t operate in a vacuum and life can throw curveballs when you least expect it.
Above all, leaders understand that a team is made up of human beings—each with their own unique personalities and needs. They empathize with team members in times of need and show respect and consideration. Their employees appreciate this and feel more inclined to respect and trust their leaders in return.
Sit down with a teammate in the break room, and ask how they’re doing. Or schedule monthly one-on-ones with your team, and use these 5 questions as your guide.
If one of your teammates asks for a day off, listen and be open about it. If it’s necessary, grant their request wholeheartedly.
Leaders seek solutions to make things better.
When things go awry at the office, it’s always easy to point fingers and blame others. Leaders focus on understanding the problem and doing whatever it takes to make things right again.
In terms of progress, leaders strive for solutions that go beyond the mediocre. They work to take things to the next level by constantly asking the question, What else can we do to make this work or work better?
When settling disputes or analyzing project setbacks, stop yourself whenever you feel the urge to blame or pinpoint mistakes. Instead, focus on solutions by asking your teammates what can be done to make things right again.
Leaders aim for transformation.
Leaders aren’t defined by the number of milestones they’re able to hit or the short-term wins they’re able to achieve. Instead, they work with the long-term goal in mind and make strategic decisions that could transform the original idea into a successful product.
Look at where the project is at this point—features released, milestones achieved, team suggestions taken, problems and concerns addressed—and see if these tasks are moving the project and business toward the original end-goals. If there are tasks or features that are out of scope or won’t make a significant impact, remove these from the to-dos, and focus on work that can create long-term results.
Leaders lead with a vision.
People feel motivated to get things done when they’re driven by leaders with a solid vision and genuine passion to transform that vision into reality. This is the core ideal that binds everyone together and brings clarity and direction to the team. Without vision, everyone would simply be working for the sake of work rather than coming together to make a difference in the world.
Spend some time visualizing and concretizing your vision for the team and the business, and write down as many ideas, words, phrases, and outcomes that serve as the foundation of that vision. Share your vision with your team regularly, so everyone’s crystal-clear on what you’re working toward together.
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