Certain words can evoke similar and powerful emotions in many of us when read or spoken aloud. The word “deadline,” might make you anxious or nervous, conjuring up memories of meeting deadlines at work–or perhaps missing them. The word “saxophone” might relax you, allowing your mind to wander to the the smooth jazz notes that you used to unwind with after a long day of work.
So what does the word “boss” make you feel? If you’re anything like many people around the world, that word will cause you some level of anxiety and worry. After all, your boss is the man or woman with power over you and your career. He or she could be the one who determines whether you’re moving up within the company or leaving it all together. Your boss can be the beginning or the end of your career.
Now think of the word “leader,” and what images and feelings that word creates. More than likely you’re thinking of those who have helped you form your personal and professional lives. You think of professors, mentors, or team captains. Maybe you think of yourself, knowing that your personality and career are conducive to leadership.
If you’re lucky, you also think of your boss.
Being a boss and being a leader are not necessarily one in the same. You can have a boss who is certainly not a leader, and you can have (or be) a leader who isn’t your boss. The best bosses, however, embody leadership to its fullest extend and allow you and your coworkers to flourish without being burdened with fear-tactics or unnecessary pressures.
Leadership involves communication, it involves authority and confidence, and perhaps most importantly, true leadership involves a mutual sense of respect. A boss might tell you what to do and why it needs to be done, but a leader will help you understand the best ways of doing it and listen to your feedback.
A boss might get on your back about finishing a project on time or taking on larger responsibilities, but a leader will guide you through a process and ensure that you’re comfortable.
Most of all, a leader will be understanding and have respect for you, your position and your relationship. Someone in a position of power–someone like your boss–should be willing to listen and adapt to feedback, someone who respects his subordinates for who they are and what they do. The faster you can embrace a true leadership mindset when you’re in a position of power, the faster your employees will begin to respect you.