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I’m the Boss — That’s Why!

Man Mean Anger Pointing Finger Yelling Casual Bald 640x440Recently, a client was sharing with me a situation he was in where the stern reply, “I’m your boss, that’s why!” was shot back after he asked a challenging question. Being a proponent of Leadership and developing leadership cultures, this type of interaction reall got me thinking! What does a ‘boss’ culture look like versus a ‘leader’ culture? There are many great bosses out there that demonstrate leadership skills at a high level; however, there are also bosses that are not such great leaders.

I asked my client how that comment landed for him. Aside from wanting to punch the guy’s lights out, he said the response felt very punitive: “I just felt my contribution was being diminished.” He perceived that his contribution was challenging because he brought another perspective to what had already been put on the table. He shared with me that the organization touts a culture of win/win and he did not see how the “I’m the boss” comment supported that culture. No one wins after a comment like that. And what type of culture is created out of this type of ‘leading’? I would venture to say that people don’t feel valued and they feel the organization is more interested in outcomes than the overall process. Leaders will motivate rather than dismiss or diminish their team’s contributions….and that includes when they challenge the process.

The book “The Leadership Challenge” by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner demonstrates five exemplary practices of leadership:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process (hmm, guess my client’s ‘boss’ didn’t read this one)
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart

Of course the book goes into some wonderful depth on each of these and includes the research to back it up. One of the reasons I started studying leadership cultures was because I had been in boss structures and they never seemed to work well for me. They may work for some and that’s ok; however, over the years I have experienced both cultures and the leadership culture’s ‘team members’ always seem happier, more productive and more fulfilled…which always supports the bottom line!

Here are just a few quick identifiers based on this wonderful research contrasted by a boss lacking leadership skills: 

Modeling the Way vs. Dictating the Way

  • Modeling the way simply means getting really clear on what is important (values) to the organization as a whole (collective values) and setting an example by living out those values.
  • Dictating the way simply means that one is not interested in the whole. They are consumed by their goals and outcomes and will make sure that those ‘serving’ them will follow their way.

Inspire a Shared Vision vs. You’re on a Need-to-Know basis

  • Inspire a Shared Vision is what connects team members to the bigger picture of why they are even there in the first place. When team members have a voice, know the direction of the whole and understand the motivation behind certain decisions, strategies, etc., they are more likely to feel and take ownership of their part in it.
  • You’re on a Need-to-Know basis keeps team members in a space of instability. Fear and power struggles increase as team members will be more inclined to feel that they are in survival mode. With no sustaining voice, no clear direction; it is difficult to maintain motivation. Ownership of the organization’s direction rests solely in the boss’ lap.

Challenge the Process vs. Do As I Say, and Keep Quiet

  • Challenge the Process is all about expanding the range of the organization by embracing differing perspectives, supporting innovation and new creations, and being open to new ideas and allowing some risk.
  • Do As I Say and Keep Quiet may keep the team ‘in line’; however, it is going to do little in supporting the synergy of the team or the movement of the team. The outlook of this type of practice is simply maintenance — team members will maintain the status quo. (And the organization will probably have a low retention rate!).

Enable Others to Act vs. Here is the box you belong in — now get back in there!  

  • Enabling others to act requires that you know your team members! Leaders take a personal interest in their team members and what would support them as individuals, as team members and as a part of the organization. In knowing their team members, leaders help support collaborative efforts and interdependence in mutually respectful relationships. Team members are supported in becoming leaders.
  • Here is the box you belong in — now get back in there; well, you can imagine how de-energizing this may be! In this scenario, the boss holds the power and the team member is dis-empowered. The boss chooses; the team member does not have a choice. The relationship is one of dependence — the employee dependent on the boss.

Encourage the Heart vs. You are here to support my goals

  • Encourage the Heart is demonstrated through recognition. Whether a leader is recognizing a team member one-on-one, in a team meeting or in front of the company, recognition always speaks to the heart. Recognition is about saying publicly that your contributions matter and make a difference. You are a valued part of the organization.
  • You are here to support my goals means just that — you are a means to my end. This may not be said overtly; however, a lack of genuine recognition of contribution demonstrates the attitude.

Zig Ziglar, Management Guru Extraordinaire, stated these comparisons that I will leave you with. Which culture do you want to create?

Boss vs Leader

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