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Making the Leap from Boss to Leader

By Perry Holley | August 23, 2023
Making the Leap from Boss to Leader

You received the promotion, were awarded the title, and are now the boss. While this is a good thing, and you should be very proud, you should also acknowledge that this is the lowest level of leadership – the lowest form of influence.

Leadership is Influence, Not Your Title

Can you succeed as a leader if you simply embrace your new status as boss and tell people what to do? Perhaps for a little while, until your team members find other places to work. People don’t want to be bossed; they want to be led.

In The 5 Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell calls this level 1: people follow you because they have to. Your number one job at level 1 is to move out of it to level 2 as quickly as possible. At level 2, people follow you because they want to.

When you were promoted to a leadership position, or from one leadership position to the next higher leadership position, it was because of your success at doing that previous job. That’s why we have managers and not leaders. Making the leap from merely being the boss to truly being the leader takes intentional actions to grow and develop your ability to lead. Growth doesn’t happen by accident.

Here are a few ideas to assess yourself against to determine if you are bossing or leading:

1. INSTRUCTING VS. INSPIRING

Are you doing a lot of telling or instructing (bossing) your people, or are you inspiring them to move in the right direction and do the right things? Inspiring starts with a clear vision of what we are trying to accomplish and genuine belief in the people to execute that vision. When leaders don’t believe in the people to make progress toward the goal, they tend to lean toward bossing.

2. HOARDING AUTHORITY VS. HANDING OUT AUTHORITY

Are you trying to micromanage or control your people, or have you empowered them to do the work without you looking over their shoulder? The law of empowerment, from John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, states that secure leaders give power to others. It takes a secure leader to do this. If you are clinging to your level 1 positional status, you are holding tight to all the power you possess. Leaders empower their teams.

3. LECTURING VS. LISTENING

Are you doing most of the talking, or does your team have a voice? Bosses like to talk a lot; leaders spend more time listening. Bosses don’t value the insights and point of view of their team members. Leaders know that all of us are smarter than one of us, and thus they value the thinking their team brings.

4. DICTATING VS. PARTICIPATING

Are you leaning on the strengths and intelligence of your team? Leaders don’t simply tell people what to do (as a boss would do); they participate together with the team to create and innovate. Leaders work with their teams, while bosses throw things at their team.

5. COPING WITH CULTURE VS. CREATING THE CULTURE

Are you intentionally creating a culture that determines how we do things here? Leaders intentionally create culture; bosses let culture happen. Culture will determine how we think, act, and interact with others. A leader’s action reveals a lot more than their words.

It can be tempting to be the boss; it takes intentional action to become a leader. Being promoted into a leadership position is your invitation to grow and develop as a leader. Growth doesn’t happen by accident.

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