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People can’t always choose their manager, but they can decide who to follow. We often times confuse managers or bosses with leaders. In my personal experience working within the tech field, I have worked for several managers, however, none have possessed what I consider the traits and characteristics of a great leader. As I progressed through my career path, I sought out to one day become the leader I wish I had when coming up through the ranks from a fresh out of school Jr. Developer to a well seasoned Sr. Developer.
The truth is, some bosses are just that – a boss. They have gained a position in the management section of the corporate pyramid. They make decisions that affect the direction of the company and often control how money is spent.
None of that makes them a leader, however. So what in my opinion does?
Leaders Lead, Bosses Push
Leaders motivate their employees, which then inspires them to follow their leader’s example. Bosses tend to push employees instead of directing them. This type of manager tends to never make decisions, which forces employees to work without guidance and expectations while their manager hides behind a wall of inaction.
True leaders frequently present ideas and work alongside their employees. They clearly communicate objectives to the team and their actions are aimed at achieving goals together. This is the difference between inspiring team members and losing their respect. When a team has confidence in a leader, it can help improve team culture and motivate employees to contribute.
Leaders Listen, Then Speak
Good leaders spend time listening to their employees rather than talking above them. They understand the value of seeking and incorporating the opinions of others into the decision-making process.
Bosses tend to dominate conversations. They expect employees to listen and carry out their commands, with little or no direction. This type of attitude is not a sound approach to building a team of engaged employees who want to be valued for their knowledge and skills.
Leaders Roll Up Their Sleeves
When a company launches a major project, true leaders get “in the trenches” with their teams. Leaders take initiative, while bosses tend to stand aside and “supervise” others doing the work.
Seeing that a leader is as invested in a project as the team can inspire others to do their best work. Bosses like to sit on the sidelines and only interact to give orders. This hurts team motivation, collaboration and creativity.
Leaders Don’t Need to be Feared
The old adage that says a person would rather be feared than respected is not going to work in the modern office. Leaders understand that intimidating employees and attempting to control them with fear will not work in any setting. Fear leads to doubt, poor morale and productivity loss. Smart leaders inspire with trust, enthusiasm and empathy, and display confidence in their employees to make decisions on their own.
The first step to becoming a great leader is to understand that leadership is more than just a position and making a conscious decision to be someone worth following. Ultimately, a leader’s purpose is to enable an organization or group of people to achieve something. And the main difference between regular and great leaders lies in how they handle this process.