There is nothing more demoralizing than having someone who is your superior that is just a boss. I am sitting in my chair, in my little grey cube, and just pondering the conversations that I have had over the past decade of my career. Today’s conversation motivated me to put this together, and hopefully it will do justice for those who are great leaders, and maybe actually turn the light bulbs on for those who are just bosses.
It has been an interesting decade when I look back on it. Officially, I am only nine years into my career here, but in October, it will be a decade. It will be the longest I have been with a company, surpassing my favorite job that I have ever had by five years. In that decade, I have had seven different superiors. I have to categorize them as superiors because not any one of them are the same. Some were good leaders and partners in my career, others have been total detriments to my well being. I am sure that many of you can relate.
The best part of having so many different people that I have worked for, I know exactly what I do not want to be when it comes to managing people. I have learned there is a delicate and fine line that you have to walk in order to get the most of out of everyone. It is not about being pushy, demanding, or in anyway overbearing. I can be that way at times, but it is not the approach that I have on a constant basis. I have worked for the oppressive ones, and they are the worst at motivation. Also, I know that I do only the bare minimum that I have to do when working for these type of people. Like any good dictatorship in the world, the one that is getting all the work done gets very little in return. There is no reason to run a team this way, aside from being the one in charge of a military campaign.
Secondly, I learned what the “hands-off” approach can do as well. If you take too far of a step outside from your realm of responsibility, you lose sight of your goals. There is a certain amount of trust that comes with being in a managing position. It goes both ways, your team has to trust your judgment, and in turn you have to trust the people that are helping you achieve the team goals. If you are so far removed to where you don’t understand exactly what your team is doing, and how they actually get to point B on a daily basis, they will never really respect or trust your decisions. Sure, the higher up you go on the ladder, the less actual “in the trenches” work that you should be doing, but understanding how that trench is dug is essential to ensuring your team will follow you when it is time to make magic happen.
So, I have had many bosses in my life. They have done the first two things really well. The dictatorship style of management, coupled with a liaise-faire attitude. It is an easy management style to have, because there is no real emotion or foundation that you have to put into it. You set a goal, then you expect the team to meet it. When they do not, you come down on them, and take no responsibility for any of it. Why? Because you had no hand in the actual work, and can always point in another direction. There is nothing to that, and anyone can manage that way. There is no substance to that, and it really is only a shell of what a leader is supposed to be. Being a boss is so much easier than being a leader any day. That is why there are so many bosses, and few leaders inside organizations. Bosses are a dime a dozen, and anyone can be that person. Developing that boss into a true leader takes time, and guidance. Something else that is lacking today in the marketplace.
The best people that I have worked for have been the leaders that understand how to treat people. Respect, dignity, empathy, and just a little bit of toughness have all been the factors that have come from the good leaders I have worked for. Those leaders know who they are and I don’t have to say their names on this page for them to know that I am talking about them. I have seen them make tough decisions, yet, still have had the respect of their teams, and have acted in accordance with the theme of my year, humility. That is right, the best leaders acknowledge the group of people they have with them. They are humble with the accolades that they get, yet, they never discount the team that got them there. They also understand the value of teaching principles to others. That task gets harder and harder as you rise in the ranks. Teaching is a big quality that you have to have when you are a leader.
The purpose of this little blurb today was not to call out any managers that I have or currently work for. I know all too well that I have no room to talk in some situations. Some things have not been handled correctly when it comes to how I have tried to be a leader. Some people that have ever worked for me may never see me as a leader. That is fine, because I have evolved over the years, and I continue to get better. Trust me, my first gig was all about me. That was my first mistake, in a leadership role, it is never about just you. It is about you and your team (unless you are in business for yourself, but even then, partnerships are formed and it still is not all about you). Relationships are the real key to success in life. It is a fundamental concept within the Bible, it is a fundamental concept that is in speeches and countless books written on leadership. It is something that I still work on.