September 20, 2017

Being the boss isn’t the same as leading

Three people around a computerJust because you can tell someone what to do doesn’t mean you should, or that it’s the best option.

In most situations, probably, you’ll be right—the one in the know, the one with the insight to see the correct course of action, the one with the relevant experience.

But not always…

Sometimes it’ll be one of the team who has the right idea.

And that’s where we see the difference between a boss and a leader: The “boss” asserts their authority, really in insecurity, and insists on their point of view being adopted; whereas the leader has the strength and self-confidence to accept the alternative idea—to admit they may have been wrong, even.

And that’s empowering. It encourages creativity and innovation and leads to advantage.

Over the long haul, the leader and the team will beat the boss and the subordinates.

Which are you: A boss or a leader?

Controlling everything isn’t leadership

Group in discussion at computerIt’s management.

They say the best leaders are the ones who develop the most leaders, not the most followers.

If we want to lead—as opposed to manage—we mustn’t control everything, because then there’s no opportunity for others to exercise their initiative and grow into leaders themselves.

Of course, there need to be checks and balances to pick up mistakes; to keep everything and everybody safe.

And the right relationship to make all this possible—trust.

How do you strike the right balance between freedom and control?

If you’re trying to nail down everything, you probably aren’t leading.

Why just being present results in natural leadership

Why just being present results in natural leadershipWhether to lead or to follow is sometimes a choice we need to make, or so it appears.

In fact, just being present may be the best option—not having need of the situation either way.

Connect that with something else and it all makes sense…

It’s often said that when intervening in a situation, it’s the inner state of the intervener which makes the difference, not so much what the say or do—much more who they are. In other words, we pay attention to highly “present” people.

And so obviously…

Those highly present people are the ones we are influenced by. The ones we follow, in fact—the leaders we look to.

Those who have let go of the need to lead or to follow are the real leaders.

Are we talking about the same thing?

Informal meetingThe conversation seems to go round in circles. Actually, it would be more accurate to say it meanders all over the place. The participants do seem to be talking about one subject though. After all, they’re using the same words.

But they’re not talking about the same thing at all.

And so the conversation doesn’t make much sense and the result is a fog.

The reason is, of course, words mean different things to different people, and they automatically attach the meaning they know to what’s said. All these different meanings have their place, to be fair, but we need to make clear which one we have in mind.

Take “leadership”, for example—one of the most talked about themes in the world today. Unfortunately, also one of the words interpreted in many different ways, such as…

Going first
The individuals in charge of an organisation
Politicians
The exercise of authority
Management
Taking the initiative in a team
Contributing something to shape the future
Stepping ahead or across
Setting an example

That’s just a few of the possible interpretations. The problem is we may not realise how different our understanding can be.

In another example, we tend to talk about measures and targets interchangeably as if they’re the same thing. They’re not. Measures help us learn about a process, and generally are helpful. Targets, on the other hand, are much more controversial. Do they lead to the desired outcomes or do they make them less likely? Talk in a muddled way about targets and measures without distinguishing between them and we have little hope of making progress.

This all seems rather obvious, but public gathering after public gathering shows we still make the mistake.

It’s wise to assume our words have a wider range of meanings than we realise and state the one we mean (as well as our respect for the rest).

If you want a fruitful conversation; take time to make clear what you’re talking about.

Otherwise, make plans for fog.