Updated: Jul 6, 2020
We all know there's a difference between a boss and a leader, or at least we should know. , What we don't always acknowledge is that both are necessary in business. The primary responsibilities of a leader are to provide guidance, motivation, discipline, direction, be an example and to develop future leaders. If you were to ask an average person what their idea of a leader is, “someone fair, nice and flexible” is what we’d likely hear in response. Well my response to that is, those are the characteristics of a boss. See, leaders tend to focus on their responsibilities, while bosses, lean more personality. I was young and recently promoted to my first management position when I experienced the difference for the first time. I loved my boss, Carmen, because she was always so nice. She never raised her voice and smiled all the time. I realized at some point that I although I liked her, I didn’t respect her. To me, she was a “pushover.” I’ll never forget the day my opinion changed. There was an unhappy customer that let Carmen had to step in and deal with. The customer yelled, screamed, cursed, threatened, it was awful. I felt the need to protect my boss, so I chimed in and Carmen seamlessly redirected the verbal attack back to her. Carmen gracefully apologized and did her best to correct the situation, all with a smile and professional demeanor. When the customer left, I yelled “why did you let her talk to you like that? You should have said (whatever).” I may have been 23 at the time. Her response was priceless. “No one will cause me to lose my professionalism. Nothing is worth that.”
Those words had such an impact on me that day and every day since. Carmen was a leader. We spoke in detail about it and it changed the way I viewed her and ultimately how I viewed the people I reported to and those that reported to me from that point on. The philosophy was so simple; people look up to those they report to and it’s important to not let them down. To Carmen, every move she made affected someone (employees, boss, company or customers) and she was going to make every move count for something. Being someone her team could depend on was important to her and she took a lot of pride in it. From that day forward, I focused on leading by example, the way Carmen did.