Are you a Leader or a Boss?

You can choose your path

Leader – a person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.
Boss – a person who makes decisions, exercises authority, dominates, etc.

There seems to be little difference between leader and boss…at least by dictionary definition. But, in life and business there is a huge difference. We’ve all had bosses: some good, some bad. You may have had the great experience of having a real leader as a boss, but they usually don’t last long. Promotions follow a real leader as they move beyond their potential. Simple bosses stay in the same position for a long time.

Band of Brothers

One of my favorite movies is the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. It is the story of WWII’s Easy Company and follows them from paratrooper training through to the end of the war (if you haven’t watched it you must!). In it you will see so many clear examples of the difference between leader and boss and the ramifications of each.

Easy Company’s best example of a leader was Dick Winters. He was not only smart and compassionate, he was dedicated to those he led. He wouldn’t ask his men to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself. He knew how to be under authority and yet was willing to risk his rank to do the right thing.

Want to be a leader? Do what leaders do and you’ll be one!

Winters #1 trait was integrity. The decisions he made, whether dealing with the men he led or those he reported to, were consistent. An interesting observation by author Tom Stanley in his book The Millionaire Mind, a study of deca-millionaires, was the largest predictor of financial success is integrity. Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Bosses do what is right at the moment, what is convenient, what is best for them. Leaders do what is right for the mission, for the situation and for others.

Winters #2 trait was collaboration. He was a man who knew how to gain the cooperation of those he  worked with. An example of world-changing collaboration is Drs. Watson and Crick, who didn’t know each other particularly well before they began their work together trying to understand the structure of the DNA molecule. But, by building on the work of the chemist Dr. Rosalind Franklin, they were able to describe the double helix that we now know forms the framework for the basic building blocks of all life – and to lay the foundation for understanding the human genome. Bosses seek their own fame and fortune, see others as tools to be used in their own ascent and leave a trail of brokenness. Leaders value the strengths of others, recognize the importance of their own gifts and work to bring both together to a place of 1+1=3..

Winters #3 trait was influence. He knew that his position of leadership was not about him, but about his ability to influence others around him. At times, influence is strong, forceful and decisive. At other times it is encouraging, supportive and compassionate. But a leader’s influence is always used for the good of the cause, the good of others and the support of the mission. We live daily seeing the power of influence. You need look no further than simple TV commercials to see the power and effect influence can have. Leaders use their charisma and influence in the service of improving others, benefiting the overall goals of whatever endeavor they are involved in. Bosses manipulate and use whatever influence they can to benefit self.

Other traits exemplified by Winters were creating vision and organizing and managing his team to accomplish the overall mission and goals of his team. He led by example, but knew “being in charge” was not something to pat himself on the back for, but rather a position of service to others – both those he leads and those he reports to. Leaders view their role as being under, serving and supporting others. Bosses view “being in charge” as a chance to advance their own agenda, benefit their own cause and take it easy letting others do all the work.

Leaders lead, even if only themselves for a time!

Whether you currently are in charge of a large team of people or have yet to be put in that  position, you have the choice to be a leader or simply be a boss. I’ve seen companies where the owner was not a leader, but simply a boss. Many “dis’s” follow such a person: disfunction, distrust, disorganization…and eventually disaster. I’ve also seen leaders in the most humble of positions. The eventuality for most of them is they won’t stay in that position for long. “Pro’s” follow them: proactive, producer and eventually promotion!

Be a leader, not just a boss, and watch the lives of those around you improve…and then yours.

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