Soul Of An Entrepreneur: Leadership vs. Being A Boss

I’ve had the soul of an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I believed that since I had the wherewithal to launch a business in my early 20’s, that I also possessed the leadership skills necessary to run that company and lead my employees.

Time taught me a critical lesson with regard to owning a business:

Being a leader is not the same as being a boss. While I was incredibly proud of my ability to conceive of and then start an organization at such a young age, one of my biggest regrets is how I chose to shore up my position as the head of my team.

I hadn’t yet learned the crucial characteristics of an inspiring leader and falsely assumed that being a leader meant telling others what to do.

Jack Welch is credited with one of my favorite quotes about being a leader versus being a boss: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

While the below image may seem simple, it visually expresses the reality of being considered a leader versus being considered a boss:

As I’ve grown professionally, I’ve gained some important personal insight into what it takes to be a respected leader and productive member of any organization.

Leaders Lead.

A boss is often equated with giving commands or directions to those below them. A leader will be seen taking part in the in process and motivating their employees by showing that no task or job is “below” them, and that they value the power of the team as a cohesive unit.

Leaders Motivate, Not Threaten.

The ultimate “power” held by a boss is that they have the authority to terminate the employment of their employees. Many bosses use this fact to create an a workplace that is ripe with the fear of individuals potentially losing their jobs if something isn’t done as the boss would like it to be.

While clear-cut job duties are essential to thriving work teams, the use of intimidation and fear of retribution stifles creativity and new ideas. Leaders will often assess work processes and ask their employees if there are areas that can be improved, and through recognition for a job well done, will motivate their employees to want to perform at their very best levels.

Leaders Listen.

Listening is such a crucial part of being a good leader, and a quality that many bosses tend to lack. While bosses believe that the opinions of those working below them don’t matter, a strong leader exhibits wisdom by listening to the ideas and feedback of the members of their team.

Communication skills are a vital skill to possess if you want to be a leader, as is the genuine belief that what is said to you matters. You will earn tremendous respect by not only listening to what your team has to say, but also by demonstrating concern about what is said.

Perhaps Alexander Den Heijer best summed up the differences between how a leader makes a person feel versus how a boss makes a person feel when he said, “When I talk to managers, I get the feeling that they are important. When I talk to leaders, I get the feeling that I am important.”

Leadership is often an innate skill that is honed as you grow wiser with more life experiences to teach you important lessons.  Great leadership is often composed of a combination of empathy, ability, dedication, vision, a sense of greater good and the ability to motivate and inspire those around you.

What were some of the best traits of your favorite leaders?