Develop Leaders Not Bosses

I was walking my youngest daughter to school last week and talking about how she is a leader in her classroom. Her friends always like to join her group and the teachers often choose her for leadership roles. Then she said, “Yeah, but I don’t want to be a leader because I don’t want to boss people around.” She’s 10 years old.

I told her that, unfortunately, too many people in charge think they can boss other people around because they are in a leadership role. These bossy leaders misunderstand the true meaning of leadership. I tried to explain to her that being a leader doesn’t mean being bossy or mean to other people, it involves positive behaviors.  

Real leaders possess these skills and behaviors:

  • Kindness
  • Listening
  • Good Communication
  • Collaboration
  • The ability to see your own weaknesses and the willingness to improve them
  • The desire to see other people succeed
  • Putting other people first
  • Humility
  • Gratitude
  • Integrity
  • Setting a positive example

She smiled and said, “OK”. Then she started talking about what she packed for lunch. Ah yes, how quickly children lose focus and move on to other topics!

If we want to develop leaders and create better work relationships, then we need to understand the difference between being a boss and being a leader. Bossing people and leading people involve two very different sets of skills and behaviors. Just because you’re “the boss” doesn’t automatically make you a leader if you think you can tell people what to do in a dictatorial manner, use only one-way communication, believe you have all the answers and refuse to improve your own skills. 

Being “the boss” who is also a good leader incorporates using all of the traits listed in blue. Think about your personal and professional relationships. Who are you most drawn to? Which person (or people) would you drop everything for and help if they asked you to? How many people do you know actually listen to and validate what you say? These are the people you are willing to follow. They are true leaders, not just bosses.

Improve your own leadership skills by incorporating the positive behaviors good leaders display. Besides, would you rather be known as the “boss” or as the “leader” everyone wants to follow?