Boss Versus Leader

Over the holidays, as I was catching up with friends over ugly sweaters, gingerbread cookies and egg nog, I happily identified this week’s post. It’s funny how these discussions come up in social settings, proof that we take our work with us wherever we go. Please, allow me to tell you a true story about a boss versus a leader.

The first leader, let’s call him Mr. News, worked on the top floor of a tall tower in downtown Denver, Colorado.  He had experienced a successful career in the news media industry, leading many acquisitions and mergers. Under him was a long line of Vice Presidents, Directors, Managers and Staff all working hard to deliver not just one but two daily newspapers: The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News.

One day, a young, impressionable advertising staff person, let’s call him The Ambitious Kid, emailed Mr. News. The Kid explained that he admired Mr. New’s success and wanted to have coffee with him to learn more about how he had gotten to the top of the big tall tower in Denver. Almost immediately, the email spread like wildfire, the line of people reporting up to Mr. News were noticeably furious that The Ambitious Kid had “gone behind their backs” because he was clearly trying to “rat them out” and “cause trouble”. Who does this punk kid think he is anyway?

The Ambitious Kid ended up in the office of a Vice President, where he was grilled for emailing the untouchable Mr. News and causing so much trouble. Thankfully, another Director had warned the Vice President that there was nothing to be concerned about, so the meeting wasn’t too awful. Nonetheless, The Ambitious Kid did not feel supported in his career aspirations of rising to the top like Mr. News did. He felt stifled and the politics he dealt with were frustrating to say the least. The Kid stuck around for a while, but ultimately left the company for a better opportunity.

The second leader, let’s call him Mr. Cool, is an aspiring business owner in Honolulu, Hawaii. He has a strong product that is in high demand. He hustled to build his business from the ground up. He delivered his product and gave great service, grew his team and is experiencing much success.

Most importantly, Mr. Cool has a special talent for connecting with and listening to his people. At one point, one of his crew members, let’s call him Mr. Innovate, approached Mr. Cool and suggested a change to the way they did things. Mr. Cool opened his ears, closed his mouth and took Mr. Innovate’s suggestions. Together, they implemented the suggestions and sure enough, they found themselves enjoying a healthy return in profit and efficiency. Mr. Cool and Mr. Innovate continued to exchange and experiment ideas. Now, Mr. Innovate is leading the sales tream for Mr. Cool’s business. Mr. Cool describes his employee as one of his best, someone he can count on and turn to for new ideas to make continuous improvements to the business operations.  Mr. Innovate is a long-standing employee with no risk of leaving the business, he is loyal and actively engaged.

Believe it or not, The Ambitious Kid and Mr. Cool are the same person, from different stages in their life nonetheless, but they are one in the same.  The Kid, who is now a personal friend of mine, took his curious and determined entrepreneurial spirit and grew a company he now calls his own. Mr. Cool he told me he would have done anything for Mr. News, and he stresses anything. He says he even would have traveled around the country laying off people, a dirty job that unfortunately had to be in that day in age as a result of the mergers and acquisitions Mr. News led. Mr. Cool, (who was then The Ambitious Kid) admired Mr. News that much.  Instead, he disengaged, clocked his hours and found his escape.

We have all seen the Boss versus Leader image that is paired with this post. I encourage you to take some time today and in the days to come to consider where you really stand on this chart. Are you directing or inspiring? Giving or taking? Telling or showing? Want to really know, ask for feedback. Your perspective may not be reality. Ask the question and prepare yourself to hear what your people have to say. You very well may have someone like The Ambitious Kid working for you, who is ready and willing to do just about anything for you and your company, but without your leadership they will go unnoticed and may even resign to leaving you down a key contributor.

If this post caught your attention and you are interested in learning what side of the chart you fall on, Transform Consulting can help. Call us today for a consultation!