Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says “Go!” – a leader says “Let’s go!” – E.M. Kelly
There are many quotes, articles and illustrations on what a leader should be. I was thinking about this topic during my commute today, indeed about who were my boss and who were my leader?
Until the last organization change, I never particularly believed in the term “Boss”. I always wondered how difficult would be to have a Boss, especially after reading the “Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School” attributed to ‘Bill Gates’ High School Speech (which later turned out that he never said that). I always believed that if I am right and if I am able to deliver sensible solutions, I need not bother about being a subordinate or reportee.
I have a personal trait of being Ambivert. I can clarify my doubts in a packed Organization Meet, I can handle large crowd, present my content to any number of people or even anchor a full house event. Being an ambivert did put forward another challenge in maintaining personal bonding,especially with my Bosses. This trait would make it relevant to write about a good leader than those who share a friendly relationship with their manager.
While playing leadership roles, I always tried to walk the talk. I was friendly and open with my teammates. I was demanding when it comes to end result. I always tried mentoring them with all my knowledge I had and went out of my way to increase their competence while challenging their decisions when it comes to commitment and productivity. I always appreciated their positive response, gave credits on every achievements, loop every one of them who had worked to make things happen in the leadership appreciation emails.
As a leader myself, I am inspired by the book written by Dr Abdul Kalam (The then President of India, India’s Missile Man) titled “Wings of Fire”. There is an incident about a major setback happened during their Rocket testing, Vikram Sarabhai(ISRO) who was his leader owned the failure and addressed the press on behalf of the Team. When the team met greatest success in Rocket development, Vikram Sarabhai requested Dr Kalam to discuss the press. This book had changed my perceptions about being a Boss and ever since I am following it in my career.
After I joined the current organization, everything much changed. It is not a problem with my organization, rather a problem which every organization in the service industry is facing. Deadlines are mostly decided by the clients and to abide with the proposals, often you see more bosses than leaders. My role got reduced to an individual player or a lead than someone who have end to end ownership. My experience with relatively flat organizations toppled while moving to a hierarchical organization. I got to realize who is a Boss and who is not.
Performance evaluations are often bell curves despite how much creative you are. It again depends on different factors like being onsite and offshore. Questioning a client who was totally wrong and labeled as being rebel. These experiences were entirely new to me. From the organizations which compelled me to question the leadership decisions to an organization asking me to stop to questioning even if it I can prove that implementing such decision would be a catastrophe.
I am now groomed enough to handle such situations. I started changing what is under my Circle of Influence than worrying about Circle of Concerns (7 habits of effective Life – Stephen Covey). Today when I am analyzing my career, I did not meet only leaders in my earlier organization, neither did i meet only bosses in my current organization. Then what make the leaders in each of these organizations different?
Personal qualities which I found in those Leaders I had:
1) Leaders don’t take shortcut: I have seen my leaders never take anything for granted. Starting from estimation to deployment, they follow process defined by the organization or the clients. They were willing to take a hit on the timelines or they were ready to answer the leadership the delay instead of taking a shortcut.
2) Leaders mentor their subordinates: They set realistic goals and help you meet the goals with proper guidance. Performance goals were never ambiguous and they all try to give you what is promised when you meet your goals.
3) Stats were not mere numbers: My leaders never forced us to do tasks which does not add value. Metrics figures were never mere numbers. They always dive deep to see what is going wrong or raise the bar when they see that the values are not challenging us.
4) Trust and Ownership: They will always trust you, give ownership and most of them do not believe in micromanaging every activities.
5) Result matters: This is really peculiar character I have seen with the leaders I had. No one will bother about what you do? All it matters is the result. No one will credit you extra if you were working hard (mostly showing) or not. For them, result matters.
6) Leaders give credit: Even if you are getting paid, an appreciation is what mostly you expect and you value it more than the monetary benefits you get. My leaders always gave credits even while they present it to their leadership or clients.
7) Open and welcoming: Leaders always welcome your suggestions and ideas. If you have a definite plan, they are always willing to take the risk.
8) Fight for you: There is no better feeling than your manager fight for you for the trust he has on you. They will go to all possible extent to deliver what is told to you.
9) Know you better: I had several such instances where I had doubts on myself. All these times they had guided me to the right direction. They trust you more than yourselves do.
10) You will miss them when you think about them and this is were those leaders whom you have no personal connections makes an impact.
It is always easy to be a leader. Set right expectations to your subordinates, do not be ambiguous, be their mentor, understand them that they are much more than what you typically term them – A Resource.