The Boss?

Daily writing prompt
Do you see yourself as a leader?

You must understand the difference between being a boss and a leader. Bosses command strictly regimented tasks; leaders guide creative teams in complex and perhaps uncertain tasks. Leaders guide in discovery.

Massage therapy, Subtle influence, Selective pressure, and management by walking around – these have been my tools for leadership. Stronger ones are in the toolbox if I need to resort to them: scolding, reprimands, and even firing. But I’m not eager to saturate the air with yells, curses, and innuendos. So it’s not like I’m a reluctant leader, just that I prefer to guide rather than rule; that could even be my slogan. 

It helps that most of my work has been in cultural areas where you may not initially know the answers and needed approaches. You and the team need to research and explore. You can’t just can’t unthinkingly start giving orders.

When I successfully landed my first job as a practicing anthropologist, I was surprised that it came with a small staff. My leadership skills were non-existent, but I knew one thing – I had problems with authoritarian leaders and did not want to be the hypocrite who emulated what he despised. Luckily, the staff was happy to engage in the sort of new adventures I could dream up. The easygoing style worked well as we developed community advisory boards for some of the grants and projects we created. The ” you go where I tell you when I tell you” leadership style would have gotten us nowhere and would have alienated the communities I needed to work with.

A few things I’ve learned. The leader needs to be prepared, the leader needs to be willing to do whatever the other teammates do if required, and the leader must support his teammates. The last means teaching what is expected, developing their skills, and correcting inappropriate behavior before it threatens the team and its mission.

Wait! You say maybe that’s OK if you are leading professionals. Sorry, after leaving government work, I worked at UPS and led Teamsters. The same principles apply. As is stated in the “Contract,” we treat each other with dignity and respect. The same skill set is used in different places.

So, in answer to that question, am I a leader? Yes, just don’t ask me to be the boss. I have other things I prefer to be doing.

%d bloggers like this: