Over the years, I’ve noticed a significant shift in the perception of leadership. It has evolved from the traditional concept of holding a position of power and authority, often associated with ruling over others, to a more nuanced understanding. Recently, I came across an article on LinkedIn authored by Dr. Travis Bradberry. In his article, he attempted to demystify the complexities surrounding the widely-used term and societal role of leadership.
Bradberry initiated his discussion by clarifying what leadership does not entail. One particularly profound insight he offered was that leadership is not contingent on seniority or one’s place in a company’s hierarchy. Although high-ranking executives are frequently labeled as leaders, Bradberry emphasized that not all of them embody true leadership. He stated, “Leadership doesn’t automatically accompany a certain pay grade. While one hopes to find leadership at higher levels, there are no guarantees.”
Additionally, Bradberry stressed that leadership should not be conflated with management. He drew a clear distinction between the two, explaining their distinct roles. According to Bradberry, “Managers are primarily responsible for tasks such as planning, measuring, monitoring, coordinating, problem-solving, hiring, firing, and various other activities related to managing processes and resources. In contrast, leaders focus on guiding and motivating people.”
Despite the numerous attempts by respected business thinkers and political figures to define leadership, it can be argued that none of these definitions comprehensively encapsulates the true essence of what leadership is and the intricate demands it places on individuals.
So what is leadership? According to Bradberry, “leadership is a process of social influence which maximizes the efforts of others toward the achievement of a greater good.” He further points out key attributes of leadership:
Leadership stems from social influence, not authority or power.
Leadership requires others, and that implies they don’t need to be “direct reports.”
No mention of personality traits, attributes, or even a title; there are many styles, many paths to effective leadership.
It includes a greater good, not influence with no intended outcome.
Leadership is a mindset in action. So don’t wait for the title. Leadership isn’t something that anyone can give you-you have to earn it and claim it for yourself.
Effective leadership represents the cornerstone of a thriving organization, a truth that becomes ever more apparent in light of a recent study by the distinguished staffing agency Robert Half. Remarkably, the study reveals that almost half of the professionals surveyed (49%) have made the difficult decision to part ways with their jobs due to the negative influence of an inadequate boss. This sobering fact highlights a common conundrum where the terms “boss” and “leader” are often used interchangeably.
In today’s ever-evolving business landscape, an increasing number of executives are recognizing the imperative of embracing authentic leadership, rather than being confined to the role of a boss. The predominant focus now rests on leading with a profound impact and influence, as opposed to commanding from a position of power and dominion. This paradigm shift has fundamentally redefined the essence of leadership in the contemporary corporate world.
The Business News Daily adeptly underscores several key differentiations between these two roles:
- Bosses command; leaders influence: As elucidated by Sue Andrews, a seasoned business and HR consultant at KIS Finance, a pivotal distinction emerges here. A boss derives their authority from their position, while a leader’s authority emanates from their ability to inspire and sway others.
- Bosses discipline; leaders mentor: In recognizing the inherent fallibility of employees, especially in the multifaceted realm of human resources, a sagacious approach is indispensable. How one navigates these inevitable mishaps reveals much about their leadership style. While bosses often resort to a system of rewards and punishments to curtail undesirable behaviors, authentic leaders grasp the value of encouragement and mentorship. Exceptional leaders not only acknowledge but also nurture their employees’ strengths, thereby enabling them to excel in their respective roles. As succinctly articulated by Macdonald, “A foundational aspect of leadership lies in the ability to harness the talents of others in the pursuit of a shared objective.”
- Bosses delegate tasks; leaders delegate authority: Bosses tend to adopt a task-centric outlook, concentrating on departmental objectives and meticulously adhering to established protocols to attain them. Their focus is typically short-term, leading to the delegation of tasks to subordinates and often culminating in micromanagement. In stark contrast, leaders embrace a holistic approach, delegating not just tasks but also the authority required to accomplish them. This expansive perspective empowers the team and fosters innovation.
Christina J. Eisinger, an executive coach and consultant at CJE Consulting, further illuminates the disparities. While a boss typically focuses on meeting specific, short-term objectives, a leader envisions a long-term trajectory for the team and uses it as a compelling motivator. A boss achieves results by instructing individuals on what to do and ensuring correctness, whereas a leader excels in yielding results by empowering the team to determine how to achieve their objectives, all the while prioritizing ethical considerations.
- Bosses stand above the team; leaders are part of the team: A boss often fails to invest the necessary time and effort to truly understand their employees, in stark contrast to a leader who forges profound connections. Eisinger underscores that bosses frequently view their team members as subordinates, maintaining a hierarchical distinction, while leaders transcend this and regard their team as equal contributors. To embody true leadership, it is imperative to cultivate positive relationships with your employees, align with their needs, and cultivate a culture that champions open and effective communication.
This quote by Simon Sinek, “Great leaders communicate and great communicators lead” points to the need of applying our human skills and not only the technical skills if we want to be seen or considered as leaders. I will also add to the Business News Daily that the difference between a boss and a leader is that bosses do not make use of their human skills as much as they do their technical or hard skills; leaders on the other hand make good use of their human skills which are the main ingredients for influence and self-willing followership.
It is leadership demonstrated in the workplace that brings about the needed change, productivity, or results for companies, organizations, and entrepreneurs. This is why we need to learn and produce the right qualities and attitudes as leaders in the corporate world (our human skills).
No matter who you are, you can become a leader by changing your mindset and acting leadership. Here are four tips that can help you on this journey:
Self-awareness should not be perceived as a mere abstract concept; it should be embraced as a proactive endeavor. It involves a conscious effort to gain a deep understanding of your own personality, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions, encompassing both your strengths and weaknesses. To truly be self-aware means to keenly observe your thoughts and actions. It is through this introspection that you can pinpoint the triggers that may send you spiraling into chaos. Change and growth are impossible without this foundational self-knowledge. It all commences with attaining a clear comprehension of your own identity!
- PEOPLE BEFORE POLICIES:
In every organization, policies are crafted to provide guidance and maintain order. The ultimate goal, however, should always be the protection and well-being of your people. What happens when these policies inadvertently harm your people? Will you stubbornly adhere to protocols in the name of conformity? Remember, you are a leader for the people. To be truly humane is to champion the cause of your people, your brand, and those it serves. Reflect on how your decisions impact them. You are the embodiment of your brand, and your brand is a reflection of your people. You cannot harm one side of the equation without harming the other. Deliberately train yourself to listen, to empathize, to be present, and to genuinely care for the welfare of those you lead.
- BE TRANSPARENT:
Authentic leaders find ways to connect with others, and there’s no better way to achieve this than through unvarnished honesty about who you are. Transparency in your leadership allows you to be more relatable and approachable, fostering an environment where positive working relationships can flourish. Transparent leadership enhances collaboration among team members and simplifies the process of reaching a consensus in business decision-making (as cited in Influencive). Can you reveal your true self by openly sharing your authentic identity? Are the individuals around you comfortable sharing their unfiltered thoughts with you, regardless of the potential discomfort it might bring? Your vulnerability may make you susceptible, but it can also serve as a powerful point of connection, one that strengthens your brand and deepens your relationships with others. When you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to lose—just be yourself!
- CONSISTENCY IN GUIDANCE:
Consistency preserves the integrity of your message. Your team pays as much, if not more, attention to your actions as to your words. The consistency of your leadership serves as a model for their own behavior. If you treat a meeting as unimportant, do not be surprised if you witness the same disregard within your team or even in your interactions with customers (according to Inc). Research by Gallup reveals that the second most common cause of turnover is a lack of communication. Marcel Schwantes, the visionary founder of Leadership from the Core, eloquently elaborates on this point: “Effective leaders consistently provide guidance, direction, and feedback on their employees’ work and performance. This is essential because people naturally seek clarity about their roles and the bigger picture. The long-term benefits are immeasurable.”
Simplifying leadership begins with a profound understanding of oneself and a streamlined approach to our endeavors. This humanizes our brands and forges not only deeper connections but also more enduring dialogues. The journey toward transformative leadership can commence today.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi Kwaku-Dosoo is a Ghanaian multi-disciplinary Business Leader, Entrepreneur,
Consultant, Certified High-Performance Coach (CHPC™) and global Speaker.
She is the Founder and CEO of The DCG Consulting Group.
She is the trusted coach to top executives, managers, teams, and entrepreneurs helping
them reach their highest level of performance through the integration of technical skills
with human (soft)skills for personal development and professional growth, a recipe for
success she has perfected over the years.
Her coaching, seminars and training has helped many organizations and individuals to
transform their image and impact, elevate their engagement and establish networks
leading to improved and inspired teams, growth and productivity.