Originally published on February 22, 2017
This is part one of a multi-part Blog series on strengthening your team by building on thoughts from experts. The foundation for these articles derives from comments made by writers in the Harvard Business Review over the years to which I add my expertise and experience.
Recently there have been a number of opinion pieces being shared about the differences between “bosses” and “leaders” on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. To be sure, experience has shown that there are many differences between these two paradigms, primarily determined by those employees who work under the boss or leader. I subscribe to a simple–OK, maybe oversimplified in some ways–philosophy regarding the difference between bosses and leaders–a boss is focused on how his or her employees’ performance reflects on the boss; a leader focuses on how he or she can provide the motivation and support that fosters improved performance for the sake of the employees and the organization.
That, of course, is my opinion–it is no more or less important than the opinion of other leaders who have fostered success within the ranks of their organization or the success of the organization itself without doing it at the cost of employee professional growth. No, I am neither a millionaire nor a billionaire like Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson, Warren Buffett, or others–my reward has always come from seeing those who I have the honor of leading growing professionally and moving toward their career and life goals. That brings up another belief of mine–a primary responsibility of leaders is to enable and mentor new leaders.
But then one must ask: How does a leader achieve good–or great–things for both the organization *and* its employees? This is where I turn to some of the wisdom of many professional who have contributed to the Harvard Business Review over the years. Social psychologists and negotiators understand an essential principle in dealing with people in determining the best course of action to enable their growth–breaking through the fog of what the subject wants and determining what the subject needs.
Tradition Meets Transformation
The difference between traditional leaders and transformational ones stems from this principle. The transformational leader does not make decisions based on “wants;” rather, decisions are based on analyzing those wants and understanding the underlying “needs” that may truly enable people. According to the Harvard Business Review, there are four primary things that people need in order to succeed.
Love. This does not refer to the mushy, Valentines Day, sort of love. In this case, love refers to being concerned for the good of your people and showing them that they are important to you and that you care about their welfare.
Growth. One of the most demotivating feelings for many people is having a sense of career stagnation. An important principle for leaders is to create–and maintain–a culture wherein people may grow professionally and expand their vision.
Contribution. Employees need to feel that their work is contributing to the organization–making them feel valued at a fundamental level.
Meaning. Vision is important–not just to C-level leadership but also to every person in the organization. It is not enough for employees to have it recognized that they are contributing to the organization–leaders need to let employees know *how* they are contributing to the organization and that their work counts. This ties directly to the organization’s vision, from which the goals, objectives, and tasks derive.
As I remind myself–and members of our staff–no individual has the market cornered on good ideas. Especially in SMBs, it is essential to have common threads flowing from the organization’s vision all the way to the tasks being accomplished at the most fundamental levels. At the same time, it is equally important to show every employee what those threads are and how the efforts of employees help lead along that thread to achieve the organization’s vision. This leads to a sense of purpose that can energize people to higher levels of productivity–resulting in a win-win situation for both employees and the organization.
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Want to know more about executive leadership? I facilitate a half-day executive leadership seminar that brings concepts to the table for collaborative exercises and application to your organization’s needs.
Harvard Business School. (2011). Management tips from Harvard Business Review. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.