By Keith Tully
Richard Branson has a well-earned reputation for putting his employees first, and is seen by many as the archetypal leader rather than simply ‘the boss.’ This distinction between a leader and a boss is an important one, as lack of effective leadership impacts strongly on team morale, productivity, and overall profitability.
A strong and effective leader motivates their team, encourages high performance, and creates a happy working environment, so what does a boss do in comparison? Often
viewing themselves as a figurehead and no more, they tend to remain on the fringes of the team, causing bad feeling and a sense of disillusionment.
So how might a leader’s outlook and style contrast with that of a boss on a practical level?
Being part of the team, not just overseeing it
A leader will play an integral part in the team, understanding how different characters interact, and playing to their strengths. They’re involved in the minutiae of a working day, helping out on a practical basis when necessary in order to get the job done.
In contrast, a boss will ‘lead’ from the outside, being reluctant to get to know or understand what makes their team tick. This generally results in poor performance from individuals who feel misunderstood and unappreciated, but even when results are good, they are often achieved at the expense of team morale.
Motivation and encouragement, not driving results through fear
A culture of fear and unhappiness can lead to high staff turnover, a lack of cohesion, and no continuity within the team. This general sense of malcontent easily passes to customers and other departments, and can affect ‘brand appeal.’
True leaders motivate their team within a supportive and good-humoured environment, using their ‘soft skills’ to get the best out of people.
Leading by example
Rather than criticising members of staff for being late on occasion, a leader will set a good example by arriving before anyone else (and probably being the last to leave). This sets the expectation for everyone else, and motivates those with poor time management skills to improve.
An inclusive approach that doesn’t ostracise those who occasionally fail to meet the company’s expectations will be more effective than punitive action, and a totally negative message.
A leader doesn’t apportion blame – they help people learn from mistakes
If you make a mistake at work, are you fearful of the consequences or motivated to get it right next time? Learning from our mistakes is a key part of life, and when a boss becomes angry they’re failing to nurture and develop their staff for the future.
Part of being a good leader is accepting that none of us is perfect, and we are bound to make mistakes at some point. How it’s dealt with can have a lasting effect on those involved, and if it’s a positive message, instill greater self-confidence.
They take responsibility for the team when things aren’t going well
A true leader will take full responsibility for the team’s performance when it is sub-standard, and no credit when the results are good.
It’s this humility and generosity of spirit that distinguishes a leader from the boss who would distance themselves from the team in times of trouble.
Leaders appreciate individuality, inspire enthusiasm and instill confidence
Everyone brings something unique to a team, and knowing how to develop each person helps the company to succeed. Getting the best out of everyone as individuals, at the same time as creating unity, demands strong leadership qualities but also emotional intelligence and understanding.
It’s draining to work in a hostile environment where conflict with your boss is the norm. Rather than simply not caring whether their employees are motivated, a true leader will ensure their staff are happy and fulfilled, providing the right training and development opportunities that encourage engagement and loyalty to the company.
Author Bio: Keith Tully from Real Business Rescue is leading corporate insolvency specialist. He knows what it takes to keep struggling businesses afloat and what qualities are required of company directors.
Featured image via Flickr CC: David Sanabria