“First of all, I will say I hate the word “boss”. At least when it is applied to me. I don’t want to be a boss, I try very hard not to be a boss, look like a boss or sound like a boss. I have had bosses before and it was not very fun. They were very bossy.
Back in the day the workplace looked a little different than it does now. The Boss model was everywhere. The chain of command was very important. Having control, and being “in charge” of your people was the primary responsibility of a person in management. Make the boss happy and you are “doing your job”. This is the boss model.
So what is a Boss?
- A boss is someone who believes their responsibility is to “get” people to behave or work in a way that makes the boss or company successful.
- A Boss believes they are on a higher plain than the people they work for. They are more important and have a sense of entitlement that others are not subject to.
- A Boss relies on their title to give them credibility. They need to remind people who is “in charge”. Titles are like a badge of honor.
- A Boss is much more likely to use anger, intimidation and manipulation to get the results that they are looking for.
- A Boss is more interested in looking good to their boss than to their subordinates. They are quick to point out how much they have accomplished or how valuable they are to the company.
- A Boss uses their power and authority to be served. They often arrange their job priorities and task to work around their own personal life. That is the whole benefit to being the boss.
- A Boss takes credit for success, and casts blame for failures.
- A Boss has a history (or will have) of broken employee relationships in their wake, These are relationships that didn’t need to end the way they did if they would have had better relational skills.
- A Boss is in search of more power and authority and will step on others if necessary to get it.
- A Boss manages according to what feels “natural”. They do what their parents did. They do what their previous Bosses did.
- Some Bosses don’t mean any intentional harm, they just don’t know any other way.
How do Bosses maintain control?
- Carrots – Bosses rely on bribing, using flattery or talking people into things in order to get them to do something for them. When a boss chases their employees away they have to resort to this to get their remaining employees to pitch in and take on extra work. Incentives are good, but not when they replace true appreciation.
- Sticks – Bosses need a club. This would be a way to implement discomfort in order to redirect behavior. Sometimes this is yelling, anger, passive aggression, write ups, guilt, self-pity, anything that will make someone behave in a manor you want.
- Social bonding – Some managers with boss-like tendencies (BLT’s) will use words strategically to win over their subordinates. They give an impression of connecting with people, when really they are just using social bonding to gain a false sense of favor. Some managers with BLT’s try to become besties with people right off the bat.
- Dog-house management – This is when, at first, you are on the right side of the manager, they seem to really like you, all seems well, until you let your guard down and cross them somehow. A manipulative boss can change their tune in a split second and toss your butt in the dog-house quickly.
- Controlling with Extremes – Bouncing back and forth between extremes is a form of dog-house management. Some Dog-house managers may allow you to make it up to them and get out of the dog-house by proving yourself to them by kissing up, or extra effort. Sometimes a sincere apology is enough. When they really need something they may let you out, and pretend nothing was wrong. You may come and go in and out of the dog-house over time. This is their way at keeping control of you. The message they make is very clear, “I am the boss, and if you don’t want to be in the dog-house, don’t cross me!”
- Expendable People – Some dog-house managers have a perspective that people become corrupt or lose their mojo and are not recoverable. When an employee crosses them, they can no longer trust them and have no use for them. They are very quick to fire and toss on the scrap heap. This type of dog-house management leaves no room for second chances or working out problems constructively.
- They take things personally – Bosses can be quick to be hurt or offended. They can take an under achieving employees actions personally. They have the perspective of “If you aren’t going to do anything for me, I am not doing anything for you”. If you watch Shark Tank, you may have heard Mr. Wonderful say “Your dead to me!” when he gets his feelings hurt. I love that show!
- My way or the highway! – Bosses have to put up a big front so everyone knows who is in charge. Everything is on their terms. They also need to know that there is little margin for error. Donald Trump – “Your Fired!”.
They have to overcompensate for poor relational skills.
- It’s your job! – Bosses are not quick to hand out compliments for people just doing their job. I have heard managers say things to me similar to “I’m not going to hold their hand and clap for them for simply doing what is expected of them”. There is some truth to this but people who focus on this tend to have trouble connecting with their people.
- I am not here to be your friend! – Bosses use this excuse for not wanting or needing to connect with people. In their eyes trust comes from outward behavior and not inward connection.
To be sure, people who have multiple BLT’s have an uphill battle ahead of them. Some of these tactics can have an appearance of success in the short term, but lack the interpersonal value to build the kind of relational resume needed for long term and large scale success.
The Servant Leader
So what is a Servant Leader?
- A Servant Leader believes they are on the same plain as everyone else. They believe they have a responsibility to serve the people that work under their care.
- A Servant Leader doesn’t need authority or a tile to gain influence. Their influence comes from their character and credibility. Consider Andy Taylor vs. Barney Fife (the Andy Griffith show). Barney points to his badge and gun to gain respect from others. Andy doesn’t even wear a gun. People listen to him. A Servant Leader has all the authority they need, but seldom needs to use it.
- A Servant Leader doesn’t try to change people from the outside in (behavior). They do not try to “get” people to do something. They get people to “want” to do something. They work from the inside out by connecting.
- A Servant Leader takes responsibility for their blunders and the teams blunders. They resists the urge to blame others.
- A Servant Leader is more interested in upholding a reputation of good character and integrity than looking impressive or pointing to their success to determine their value. They are transparent and approachable.
- A Servant Leader doesn’t use flattery or false humility to put on a mask. They are less interested in telling people what they want to hear and more interested in telling people what they need to hear in order to grow.
- A Servant Leader understands that you have to earn the right to be heard. “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I know this is very over-used, but it is so true.
- When a Servant Leader see’s abberant or irresponsible behavior they don’t automatically jump to discipline, criticism or removal. They seek out the reason for the behavior. They try to connect with the person to discover the cause rather than just addressing the symtom or behavior. They save many relationships and divert costly bad turnover in doing so.
- A Servant Leader resists the urge to manage according to what feels natural and seeks out proven methods. They look outside the box to learn what the great leaders have done. Then they do that.
So how does a Servant Leader maintain control?
- They don’t. Servant Leaders are not in control. Each person is fully in control of their own choices and actions. Unless you live in a communist country, you have the right to work for who you want to work for. We need to remember that our employees choose to work with us, and have needs to be met in order for them to want to continue to work with us. They can leave any time.
- Outcomes – Servant Leaders have a much greater effect on outcomes than bosses because they influence the people around them to own their actions. Influence always trumps control.
- Influence – Servant Leaders understand a few basic principles about the nature of all people.
1. People need to know that they are appreciated. They need to know that their ideas and opinions matter.
2. They need to know exactly what is expected of them. They need someone to take the time and help prepare them for what they need in order to be successful.
3. They need to feel needed, and that their hard work matters and makes a difference. People will run through walls for you if they know it counts for something bigger than the task.
Trust – Servant Leaders understand that their first responsibility is to show people that they can be trusted. Until you gain the trust of your crew you will have very little influence on their lives.
- Trust means not making promises they don’t intend to keep
- Trust comes when your co-workers know that you have their best interest in mind, and you are not going to toss them onto the trash heap.
- Trust comes from doing the right thing, in the right manor, for the right reasons.
- Trust comes from giving someone opportunity to show their trustworthiness.
- Servant Leaders expect the best out of people. Many Bosses expect their employees to fall to the ground like a turkey, Leaders expect them to fly like an eagle. They set the bar high and believe in them.
- Servant Leaders treat people with respect, even when they disappoint. “Love the sinner, hate the sin”, they keep the value of the sinner separate from the value of the sin. They toss out the bathwater without losing the baby.
Success or failure is largely decided by the type of leader you are. These principles are real and true and are absolute. The path has already been written for both types. It’s up to us to determine if we are going to take the path of least immediate resistance that requires less change with less results, or the path that requires personal growth and leads to deeper connections and a network of trusted people in your corner which is needed for long term or large scale success.
I’ll bet you have some Boss-like qualities at times and some Servant Leadership qualities. I know I do. Chances are any success you’ve had comes from the areas you exemplify Servant Leader qualities. Many of the failures you’ve had relationally, probably came from the Boss in you coming out. Being a “Boss” comes more natural to most, but holds us back and keeps us from being all we can be as a leader. It takes time, effort, and most of all self-sacrifice to get past being a Boss to become a true Servant Leader. Be prepared, there may be some self-discovery needed before you can begin to make the transition.
Something is wrong
If you are in a leadership role and you always seem to be spinning your tires, not getting anywhere, if people always end up letting you down, and you find yourself burning out, or starting over frequently, you need to know, that’s how it is suppose to be! Ya, I said that. Just like when your knee bends in a way it was not intended to bend, it hurts! It means you are doing something wrong, following the wrong recipe. Pain and stress are put in place to tell us when something is wrong to force us to put guardrails in place, change directions or get help. It means you have some obstacles that need to be removed, or wounds that need to be healed. You may need someone skilled to operate on your heart and help you see what is most important and to help you find your purpose, and learn your giftedness.
I believe we all make life much more difficult than we need to sometimes. We have Self Imposed Foolish Tendencies (SIFTs) that hold us back and keep us from progressing. We need to put ourselves under a coach or mentor be “SIFTed” to remove these obstacles, then be open to change.
Hebrews 12:1 says ” Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”
- People are watching and learning from you.
- You have SIFTs that you need to purge before you can finish the race.
- You need to persevere so that you can lead the way for your followers.
- There is a race marked out for you that you need to find, and finish.
Things have changed over the years. In this post-modern culture, people are much more experiencial minded. The younger generations are more relational and respond to connectedness in deeper ways than the old days. They are looking for something to be a part of, something that they can feel good about. They don’t respond the same to authority as they did when I was a kid. This means we need to change and adjust to meet the needs of our people if we want them to take part in our mission. When we keep trying to change them, or live according to past generations, we set ourselves and all our followers up to fail.
People need people
When we are in a position of leadership we have an incredible opportunity and responsibility to make a difference in peoples work experience and lives. Every successful person can look back and see a person or two that came along side them and changed their entire perspective on what it mean to be successful. We all need someone to show us the way, to help us get past our own Self Induced Foolish Tendencies. We need someone who believes in us and is willing to have your back and push toward our personal best.
The Pareto Principle says that 20% of the leaders experience 80% of the success. I promise they don’t do it by being “bossy”.