Are You A Boss Or A Leader?

“Boss Lady.”

On the surface it doesn’t sound so bad. In some ways, it seems to instantaneously elevate one on the organizational chart. On deeper examination, though, what thought is in the minds of your people when they think of you so immediately as “Boss” that they hang that nickname on you?

If you are ever saddled with a nickname like “Boss Lady” rest assured that your employees have determined one thing you are decidedly not. Their Leader.

Leaders shine the light on their people. Bosses ask “what do they think of me”
Leaders influence. Bosses direct.

Leaders stoke passion. Bosses stoke assignments.

Leaders develop people. Bosses train them.

Leaders take responsibility. Bosses take credit

Leaders create leaders. Bosses have employees.

Leaders are brave. Bosses look over their shoulders to see who is gaining on them.

Becoming a boss is the easy part. Becoming a leader is where the real commitment comes in. Employees are ruthless about the distinction.

So how do you not become “Boss Lady” and instead become the leader who can influence a team of ardent supporters?

Be thrilled to “hang back in the cut.” Trust that your people have the smarts, the capabilities, and the instincts to succeed 99% of the time without you jumping in. Let them shine. Let them grow. Let them be the stars.

Stop thinking that team status meetings where you dole out work and check in on people’s assignments will inspire people to produce great work for the week. Let others metaphorically “sit behind the big desk” and really talk about what they are excited about accomplishing. You’ll be amazed at how that mundane day to day stuff gets accomplished much faster when you don’t lord over people like a hawk.

Understand the difference between training and development. Training can teach you the skills to learn how to write. Development recognizes and taps into natural abilities and passions and develops that into the talent that creates a great novel.

Put down the smart phone and pay attention to your people. The person in front of you deserves your attention and just because they can’t call the “boss” out on it doesn’t mean they haven’t made a mental note of your being dismissive to them. Nothing says “you’re not important to me” faster than a “boss” who doesn’t focus on you when you are standing in front of them.

Focus on content of projects before you think about criticizing form and delivery. The passion is in the content. Form can be fixed. If you kill content, you destroy passion and confidence.

When someone works their butt off on a project have the respect to acknowledge it immediately and respond to it within a reasonable amount of time. Sitting on projects instantaneously throws you into the boss heap.

If you’re looking over your shoulder, you should be beaming with pride that someone is nipping at your heels. Only then will you know you’ve created a team of leaders.

Bosses don’t engage people; they don’t influence them; they don’t create more leaders. Only leaders do.

Are you a boss or are you a leader?

Sandi Coryell is a Leadership Consultant and Speaker whose passion is to Unleash Deviant Leadership at every turn!

You can follow Sandi on Twitter @SandiCoryell or find her at


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