Don’t Be a Boss; Be a Leader

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Flickr CC via European Parliament

Ever notice how the word “boss” and the word “leader” are seemingly interchangeable, yet the two words have completely different connotations? A “boss” sounds like someone who tells you what to do and gets mad if you don’t do it. A “leader,” on the other hand, sounds like someone who challenges others to be the best they can be and guides the way. Clearly, a leader is preferable to a boss. So how do you tell the difference?

1. Leaders are human

Managing other people is not the same as managing the working parts of a machine. Think of yourself and what kinds of things motivate you. You’re human, right? It’s your humanity that inspires you to do things because you feel emotions and have desires. Well, guess what? It’s the same for the people you’re in charge of, and understanding that is the first step to being a leader instead of just a boss.

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2. Leaders listen

A good leader is a good listener. A “boss” might jabber on and interrupt you, ultimately stifling progress and results, but leaders listen to what others have to say and value their input. A leader who listens to and understands someone else’s thoughts and ideas will know the best way to turn them into executable actions that move the organization forward.

3. Leaders see beyond themselves

What’s good for the organization may not always be what is good for its leader. Power corrupts, and it’s human nature to be self-serving to a degree. But a true leader looks beyond their needs, biases, and feelings to do what’s right for the organization. This requires humility and objectivity. While “bosses” sometimes have difficulty separating their own needs from the equation, a leader is careful to notice their own ego and tread around it.

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4. Leaders take risks

A “boss” might be too concerned with self-preservation to take risks, but a leader is prepared to take bold action when it’s called for, even at the risk of personal loss. Some of the most respected leaders in history were the ones who took huge risks and were rewarded with major results.

So when you’re called upon to lead, avoid the “boss” label and be recognized as a leader instead, keeping in mind that a true leader is someone who treats others as humans, listens as much as speaks, sees beyond themselves, and occasionally takes risks.