Nowadays, corporate life is no longer as simple as it was before. First, we had a boss, who had employees. The boss told the employees what their tasks were, and they executed the work – a simple, straightforward approach. But now things have changed; the importance of employee motivation has finally been recognized, and team members are expected to work closely together. As a result, managers were convinced to be leaders, and not bosses anymore.
The boss turned out to be the evil villain of the story. Nobody wants to have a boss or – for god’s sake! – to become one. Being a leader is great; you work with people who deeply respect you, you feel good about yourself, you are some kind of superhero. But, is being a leader good for your career?
- A leader looks downstairs, the boss upstairs
A leader sees the satisfaction of his team as the key to success. Since a motivated team has a better performance, the leader will spend a high amount of time trying to make his team feel good, empowered and recognized. The boss, in turn, might care more or less about his employees; his priority is clearly to cause a positive impression at his superiors. Consequently, who is closer to being promoted? Surely the boss! His superiors might promote or recommend him for a higher position, while his team is unlikely able to influence such a decision. Have you ever seen a team going to the streets to claim their leader’s rights? If you have seen it, you probably won’t see it twice.
- A leader delegates, the boss concentrates
The leader sees himself as part of the team and shares his responsibilities, avoiding monopolizing information. He is confident about his team; his employees have deep knowledge about the project, and he can always rely on someone to substitute him, if needed. The boss, on the other hand, usually executes important tasks by himself and everything falls apart when he is out of reach.
One day the company is facing bankruptcy or a department must be shut down. Unlikely? Come on, financial crises are expected to happen every five to seven years; it is part of the game. Considering that the leader has a much higher paycheck than his subordinates and his staff has many times substituted him, who gets fired? The leader, obviously. The boss might lose his team, but he will never lose his paycheck.
- A leader cares about potentials, a boss cares about facts
The new leadership trend is to discover the potential of your staff and help them to overcome themselves. Maybe it means that you have an employee with great unused talent and you are thrilled about polishing this undiscovered jewel, making him stick to the company; however, it is more likely that it means you have some low-average employee that could do a better job. The boss does not care much about low-performance employees and instead of trying to spend time making one a brighter person, he might just get rid of him and hire the right one. It might sound heartless, but it is not without reason that charity is non-profit.
Now you probably are thinking, “Wait, but the leader’s employees perform better!.” Yes, you have a valid point here. The team managed by a leader, with motivated, engaged people, who share knowledge and trust each other probably lead to better outcomes. But the question is: who cares?
Nobody does. Well, maybe someone does care about your performance as manager, but not that much. We all love to talk about results, but we rarely make an effort to measure it. If you are responsible for an assembly line or a sales team, you probably have some hard numbers to describe your achievements, but if you lead an engineering team, chances are that nobody actually knows if you deliver a good work or not.
Having said that, as a leader you care about outcomes and try to get the best of your team, but, unfortunately, the CEO probably has no idea what you are doing. Or even your immediate superior. Your team might implement a well-needed refactoring on the framework and properly validate the changes, while your superiors are only complaining about the time you need to release. Or you might build a horrible application as an abominable collection of bugs and be praised about your team’s record developing time.
The bitter moral of the story: do not overestimate leadership! It might be good for your company, but it does not mean it is good for you.
Sounds crazy? Welcome to the Insanity Corp.
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