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When does a Boss Transform into a Leader?

Becoming a Leader
Becoming a Leader Images

Question: "How many managers does it take to become a leader?"

Answer: “Only one, so long as the manager can give up subordinates to gain followers."

Here in lies the trap of management versus leadership. It really is easier to have people who work for you where you can set the game plan and the schedule. When your main task is to check off the boxes, you can expect those who report to you do exactly as they are told. There is a minimum of ripples and the ocean of work is relatively easy to navigate. Life can be mostly risk free and overt conflict avoided.

Management is essentially transactional in style. There is limited dialogue and business training is of the "tell and do" school. It was the preferred way for decades and so long as staff had a high degree of pleasers and martyrs, work would run relatively smoothly. In many places management is still preferred, yet more and more management courses are adding a leadership section. It is what the world of work is demanding as younger generations are questioning “why do we do what we have always done?”

Leaders live in an amorphous land of both inspiration and perspiration. Leaders really do "sweat the small stuff." Leadership development requires both an internal and external focus and a willingness to give up formal control.

Rather than transactional, the best leaders are transformational. They show by example what truth and integrity look like. There are fewer words and more actions. While most leadership training programs still focus on the external, more are moving into the realm of self-exploration. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. No more blaming out there, this is the realm of accountability and searching for what is right rather than being right. It is leading from the heart and intuition coupled with logic and decisions of the mind.

So what happens when a manager becomes a leader? There is an in-between time that is quite energizing as well as vastly challenging. Lindsey is a perfect example. When she was promoted from her role as curriculum developer at a large school district to superintendent she knew she was traveling from control to passion, objectives to vision, stability to change, results to achievement, planning details to setting direction, short-term to long-term thinking.

The day she knew she had learned what it meant to lead is when her administrative team was at an off-site and she had to listen to the concerns and complaints about the lack of trust in the team. Initially she wanted to blame the "old guard" for the lack of safety and she gravitated to her life-long pattern of avoiding rather than confronting.

She sat dejectedly, lost in her world of right and wrong, until she realized that leading by example meant more than all the theories she had studied. She stopped the flutter of conversation and shared her truth, that when confronted and uncomfortable her pattern was to retreat, to be wary, to defend, blame and justify. She sat ramrod straight in her chair; all eyes directed her way. She felt the perspiration dampen her shirt. So what! She was now moving into the role of leader and in her own way was researching the impact of the truth on her team.

There was a period of uncomfortable silence. And then one by one her team said simply "thank you." The meeting tone shifted as more and more of her colleagues began to express their own patterned styles. That day Lindsay left the role of manager behind and earned the right to be called a leader.

Bosses who receive rave reviews search for the transformational aspects of working WITH direct reports rather than just the transactional “telling them what to do” side. They become a blend of the best of all worlds; leading from the heart and intuition coupled with logic and decisions of the mind.

Are you a boss or a transformational leader?

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