Tag Archives: Leader

Boss versus Leader – not so clear cut.

Boss vs Leader

No attribution. No copyright infringement intended. Let me know if it’s your work.


Intuitively, the picture resonates.  We’ve all had the petty-tyrant boss; the person who loves the sound of their own voice and is oblivious to the resentment and de-motivation they’re engendering.

And most of us can relate to the manager who loves to roll up his sleeves and jump in on the line.

But don’t be fooled.  There’s a problem with the scenario that this image paints, especially when it comes to larger teams with significant division of labour:

You can’t fly at 40,000 feet and be on the tarmac at the same time.

If you as the organizational leader are always “hands-on”, who’s doing your job?  To belabor the cheap analogies; if the captain is always in the engine room, the ship’s going to run aground.


Don’t “lord it” over your team.  Challenge them, but don’t be a slave-driver.  Be nice, respectful, sincere, and above all, just.  But recognize that their job is not yours.  They need to be accountable for their role, just as you need to be accountable for yours.

In a pinch, get in the trenches and dig.  But if you need to do that regularly, you’re not doing your job properly; you’re just a very overpaid member of the team.

When it comes to that bromide about being “Hands On”, here’s the rule to follow:

Be hands-on as much as necessary, but as little as possible.

And over time, given that a part of your job as “boss” is to develop your reports, you should be hands-on less and less.  That will be easier if you master the art of delegation.

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Apologies for all the links, hope they weren’t distracting and that you find some of the material useful.

Questions or comments – feel free.







Why lead?

WHAT motivates people to lead others; to take on the role of organizational leader, whether in corporate, non-profit, government, military, sports, or a myriad of other organizational settings?





Because no one else can?

I’m sure for most it’s a combination of many factors, and equally sure that reasons vary from leader to leader.

I’m very curious about this, because I believe leadership as we know it is rapidly changing, as the modus operandi of successful organizations evolves away from the command & control model of last century towards individual empowerment and more collaborative business models.

That means that what makes a leader successful is changing, and as a corollary, what motivates people to lead must also be changing.

If you have thoughts on this; if you are in a leadership role; if you’re an observer or thought-leader in the field, I’d like to hear from you.

I’ll have more to write on this in coming weeks, and hopefully will have a more formal survey in place soon.  For now I’d like to gather some anecdotal evidence.  Can you help?  Why do you or the leaders you know choose to lead?

Taking the Lead

TAKING the lead – initiating – is key.

Don’t worry too much about trying to influence others to follow.  Whether others follow your lead should be less about your influence, and more about their choice.

Leadership, taking initiative, can come from anybody.  It should come from everybody.  In the best teams it does.

The choice to follow a lead, freely made by rational judgment, makes for the strongest form of engagement any group of people cooperating for a cause can have.

Think a little less about being “The Leader” and a little more about how you can encourage everyone to take the lead.

Are you building your expertise?

EXPERTISE is one of the four essential attributes of good leadership.

It is rare to find a good organizational leader who has not built up a wealth of knowledge and skills within his or her industry that is directly relevant to the organization, as well as considerable “general knowledge” and a suite of transferable skills.

And for those not in a titled-leader role, building your expertise is just as important, whether you aspire to lead others or not.  Continuously building on your knowledge and skill-sets is one of the privileges of being human.

In broad terms, expertise can be categorized in four ways (the examples are by no means exhaustive):


To some degree, the range and depth of expertise required for any specific role is contextual, that is, it depends on the role and the organization’s pursuit.  Many a CEO has switched field with little or no Industry-specific skills, relying only on their generic knowledge and transferable skills.  In such cases, said leader leverages the organization and industry-specific knowledge and skills of their team, crams for specific knowledge at the outset, and then learns as they go.  This is the exception though, not the rule.

Continuously building on your knowledge and skill-sets is one of the privileges of being human.

If you can spare a couple minutes, try mapping out your own knowledge and skills using the matrix above.  In which areas could you deepen your knowledge and skills?  Add them to your personal development plan.  You do have a personal development plan, right?

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Hear Hear…

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

John Quincy Adams

What is Organizational Culture and how do you change it?

A definition of Organizational Culture distilled from several dictionaries would run something like this:

The sum of the ideas, knowledge, beliefs, values and behaviors characteristic of and displayed by the members of a particular organization or group.

Of the five drivers of culture mentioned above, “values” is the foundation, and “behavior” the visible manifestation.

Any initiative to change organizational culture must first identify what values are paramount in the organization.  What do members of the group care about?

Second, the change agent needs to identify what values they’d like to inculcate and what resultant behaviors these values should engender.  What should members of the group care about?

Only then can you think about what needs to be done to inculcate change; that is, develop strategy and tactics to change what the organization (read, it’s members) values.  Note that there is no “organization” per se; it can hold no ideas or values, nor can it “behave”.  What exists are the members of the organization, and it is they who will need to change or be changed. Continue reading

Does A Leader Need Followers?

You think for yourself, you initiate and pursue values, you’re good with people, you’re always trying to learn more, and you’re passionate and committed to everything you decide to do.  You inspire people by your example.  You don’t have a leadership title and you don’t have formal followers.

Are you a leader?

I would argue that in the most important sense, yes, you are.

The first person who needs to be lead effectively and in the right direction is your self.

Deciding what to do, how to do it, and then getting it done may sound like the normal and ordinary role of every person, which in fact it is; but the majority of people unfortunately can’t, don’t, or won’t do it.

Far too many people are passive, unthinking, unreasonable, apathetic, and bored.  They go with the flow, follow the crowd, do what they’re told, and spend their lives surviving, not thriving.

Independent thinking, the most vital attribute in leadership, and a learnable skill no matter what your IQ, is a rare commodity.  When was the last time you heard of a school that teaches thinking skills to children?  Right, me neither, but they should.

So the answer is no, a leader does not need followers per se.  Anyone who displays the essential attributes of leadership is a leader in my book, with or without “followers”.

NB:  The converse of this is that having followers does not necessarily make you a good leader.  More on this in a future post.