Monday, September 6, 2010

Is Your Boss Your Leader?


As most of you, I have had many different supervisors over the last 25+ years. During my time in the Navy, I got a new supervisor every 1-3 years because of rotations in and out of the organization. My experience during that time would be very similar to those of you reading is fairly easy to segregate the great from the not-so-great leaders...that ratio is probably in some cases 1-to-100.

In my time as a Naval Intelligence officer, we had a tool that was called the "Alpha Roster." The Alpha Roster was something of a planning tool that listed all of the Naval Intelligence officers, their current command/unit, and when they were due to rotate to a new job. While its intended purpose was for career planning also had provided a way to track those not-so-great leaders to ensure you didn't end up even in the same geographic region with them again. In many respects, those these supervisors were in leadership positions...they were really my boss and not my leader.

How does this story relate to the topic? I think there is a significant difference between bosses and leaders...While your boss can be your leader...that doesn't happen nearly as often as your boss never being your leader.

There are a number of great perspectives on what makes great leaders standout from people that are playing your boss. The Faster Times Fred Wilson recently posted on "The Three Things CEOs Do." In the post a Venture Capitalist shares what CEOs do and importance on organizations...

"A CEO does only three things. Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank."

While this seems simplistic, the first attribute is a critical component in differences between bosses and leaders. Rosalyn Carter, wife of former President Jimmy Carter, once shared her perspective on just the difference between leaders and great leaders.

“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”

This quote gets to the Venture Capitalist comments on what CEOs this case great leaders have to set a vision of the future and get the organization and its culture to move to this new proposed future.

Bosses have their role to play...detail-oriented, efficiency focused, standards, risk management, and process driven (Let me clarify that this is my view of bosses). There are of course much more negative attributes of people I lump into the "boss" category that we have all seen and said to ourselves..."That is not the way to lead and I am not going to do that when I am a leader"...I focus on more of what I see from bosses. These "boss" attributes lead to results that can move organizations, teams, and individuals to new levels, but at the end of the day...these things do little to inspire or enhance employee engagement.

To be the great leader that Rosalyn Carter have to create a future shared vision for the team and/or organization, communicate clearly and effectively, inspire trust and openness, create a culture of innovation and disruption and how the team working collaboratively can achieve results.

Great leaders with these abilities are talent magnets...drawing people to them and their organization because they see a new and potential future that this talent can play a part in creating...Like the Venture Capitalist discusses as the number two thing that CEOs do. This is why companies like Apple, Cisco and IBM draw great talent to their organizations. you sit around today contemplating this blog post...think to your past supervisors or your current set and ask the question...

Is your boss your leader...your great leader?


1 comment:

  1. Hi Keith

    I would say that really great leaders don't 'take' people anywhere, they simply enable them to get to where they ought to be.

    Also, a bit controversial I know, but organisations backed by or led by venture capitalists rarely demonstrate great leadership - their goals and aspirations are simply not in line with the culture needed to enable great
    things from people.

    And I think the ratio of 1 to 100 is being generous ;)

    Nice post!