I don’t think I could ever imagine myself as a “boss”. It just seems super weird to me. I like working on stuff, not managing people. But as I think about leadership, I realize that I do really enjoy helping people learn stuff. I really like working with other people to build cool things. It’s a lot better than building something on your own, because at the end you can high-five that person and say “we did this!”. I think I’m pretty good at guiding people along coding projects and stuff. If I were leading people… I would I hope that I wouldn’t be a “boss”, but rather, the guy who likes collaborating and building cool things with a team.

There are 6 different types of leadership styles and I think if I’m one of them, I am “The affiliative leader “. I like working with people, and I like helping them learn. I would want people to feel like they are belong, and know that they are a part of building something awesome. I would focus more on collaboration and teamwork than I would making sure everything is done perfectly. I want people to be actively engaged and not feel like they’re just working a job or working on a particular feature because they have to. If I’m doing something wrong, I want them to be able to tell me. I don’t want to be an authority figure. That makes me cringe when I think about it. I would want to lead people in the right direction.

I think the real difference between being a leader and being a boss or manager, etc. is that one is a job title that you have until you leave that job, retire, or whatever. The other, being a leader, is something that you can only be if you really are leading people. You can call yourself a leader, but if your team isn’t on the same page as you, and they’re not following you then guess what… That’s not being a leader, that’s only pretending! To be a leader you must step down from the pedestal and realize that we’re all in the same boat – you’re no better than your team. Because without your team following you, you’re just kind of wandering off on your own. You can’t be a leader without a team behind you!

Ideally, a leader will help guide their team to success by making sure that each individual member feels like they’re positively contributing and has a meaningful presence in the workplace. They should listen to their ideas and take the time to hear what they have to say. Your team isn’t robots (yet!) so treat them like people!

Reading the StrengthsFinder book said a lot to me. It talks a lot about leading with your strengths, and not worrying about trying to “fix” your weaknesses. This resonated with me, because all through junior high school and high school there were classes that I struggled at… But I would go home and code for hours and make some really cool programs at young ages. It was still frustrating for me though, because I felt like I couldn’t do things that “normal people” could. Now I realize that I just learn differently. I can make up for where I lack, and I wouldn’t change anything…  But it gave me some real insight into attempting to overcome my own weaknesses… Such as: “Why bother?”

I think that rather than trying to push team members to overcome their individual weaknesses, I would pair up team members with other team members who have contrasting strengths and weaknesses. Not only will each team member be a part of something that keeps them actively engaged, they will have also learned something from the other employee that they may have struggled with before.

There is no secret formula to great leadership, and I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” solution, either. Not everyone is always going to like your style but if you talk to individual members of your team and hear them out, you will have a better idea of how to make something work in a way that your team can be successful. That’s why a leader must be able to empathize with their team and see things from all angles before making a decision.

1 thought on “Boss != Leader”

Although those in charge (the bosses) assume the default role of leader, sometimes the most productive leadership comes when peers are willing to share leadership. For those good at following instruction, the thought of leadership can be daunting. If they have the courage to take up the mantle and can achieve even a small success, however, leadership can become an empowering force.

For leadership to be effective among equal peers, the merits of their approach must be most vital metric, and can be measured without the stigma of hierarchy/authority attached. If each member can be honest in their own strengths, and be willing to defer to those better suited to address a particular problems, a team can maximize their abilities without necessarily relegating individuals to ‘lesser’ positions.

One must take care in the situation to recognize that there is still only 1 recognized leader at a certain time, but that the mantle of leadership can be passed around fluidly as long as the group acknowledges an individuals merits for a certain task/situation is better suited than the others. It might be during such a transfer of leadership that an outside force (boss/authority) may be required to ‘settle the vote’ on who is best suited. Care has to be taken that this outside influence does not alienate those affected among their peers. The boss, although ultimately leveraging their authority, must still justify their choice based on merit.

Ultimately, as in much of our lives, open communication is one of the strongest factors in ensuring the role of leadership does not become confused with the role of dictatorship. Whether it be among peers, with your boss, or with those who see you as an authority figure, we all must be willing to lead, and be led.

Thanks for the great post Andrew.

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