Are You A “Boss” Or A “Leader”? 

If you define yourself as a boss, you should be worried. People who see themselves as bosses naturally struggle when they can’t directly see “their people” doing their work and have a natural and unfortunate distrust of their employees. This kind of “boss” believes that unless people are directly supervised, they’re not really working or productive. This is a highly outdated form of leadership.  

Manager-employee relationships must be built on a foundation of trust. If you define yourself as a leader, you operate on trust and believe that people want to work, enjoy their work, and will do their best work in an environment of trust and accountability. These leaders believe in and provide freedom for teams and people to do their work in ways, in places, and at times that suit the people as well as the organization. 

Leaders Adapt With Change 

Leaders recognize varying work styles, personality types, and evolving workplaces, and they adapt and shift to find what will be most successful for both the employees and the organization. The remote and hybrid work environments spurred by the COVID pandemic is a great example. 

Leaders must recognize how to accommodate what will be an evolving office or workplace scenario where some people love to be in the office as much as possible and others will happily maintain the ability to work mostly remotely. Managers have the responsibility of building relationships across all cohorts and ensuring a uniformly excellent experience for everyone. 

As part of that endeavor, managers must make an intentional effort to connect with people. It is incumbent upon leaders to make that outreach and put themselves out there. Managers who define themselves as leaders must also have the emotional intelligence to understand the needs of others.  

Common assumptions are more “introverted” people prefer to be left alone because “they love working independently, so I won’t bother them.”  But that may not be the case. Managers need to make those intentional connections to understand the needs of their employees, especially in a remote work environment.  

Organizations should be assessing their leadership ranks and separating true leaders from those who see themselves as bosses. Organizations should also evaluate their culture and determine if their culture needs to significantly change to adapt to the future of work in remote and remote/hybrid settings. This should start with those who defined themselves as “bosses” evaluating their own leadership styles and assessing whether they remain relevant in the contemporary workplace and the workplaces of the future.  

Are you ready to be a leader and not just a boss? Leadership Beyond Management is a great program that will help you assess and develop your leadership strengths and development needs. Or, check out our other management and leadership focused programs.  

Shawn Belling is a globally experienced technology executive, speaker, instructor, and author based in Madison, WI. Shawn has held executive and management roles in higher education, software, consulting, bio-pharma, manufacturing, and regulatory compliance sectors. Shawn is the Chief Information Officer at Madison College, and is adjunct faculty at UW– Madison and UW-Platteville as well as the University of Southern California. Shawn teaches, speaks, and consults for businesses, universities, and professional organizations on various leadership and management topics and practices. Shawn released his books Succeeding with Agile Hybrids in November of 2020 and Remotely Possible in June of 2021.