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Are You A Boss Or A Leader? And One Is Definitely Better Than The Other

Are You A Boss Or A Leader? And One Is Definitely Better Than The Other

You’ve nursed your dream along slowly, patiently with equal parts of blood, sweat and tears. And now it’s starting to blossom and grow. People are noticing you, your business is growing. You’ve gone from a one-man show to hiring employees.  Congratulations. Take a moment and smile and thank everyone for their support and commitment. But only a moment. Then it’s back to work.

Now you have a decision to make: Are you going to be a boss or a leader?

And I hear you saying,“What is the difference?”

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The difference is, in a word, huge.

A leader is in the middle of it all

The difference can be summed up in a meme that is popping up all over the place these days: A boss tells you what to do, and a leader is out there with the people leading the way. To be sure, there are times when a leader has to do some telling, or be a boss, but a leader never makes that his/her main way of directing or leading.

The boss stands apart from people not with them. Sometimes it is necessary to stand apart for a few moments to take a breather (momentary) and look at the big picture. But after the breather, the leader jumps back in and is back in their shoulder to shoulder, and elbow to elbow with everyone else.

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One time, Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) went to visit one of his stores in Florida that had planned a special event.Upon arriving he found an electrical storm had disabled all the cash registers in the store, leaving the customers stranded in long lines as the cashiers had to do everything by hand. Upon seeing the growing lines, Walton grabbed a pencil and a pad of paper and began working his way through the lines tallying up each person’s purchase (and rounding down to the customer’s advantage). (Self-Made in America.  John McCormack with David Legge.  1990.  Addison Wesley.  Pages 127-128)

Struggling school teacher Ruth Fertel bought the famous New Orleans steakhouse, Chris’s Steakhouse (later to become Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, but that’s another story) and spent a decade working alongside her employees, saying, “I thought my employees would respect me more if I worked right alongside them, so I did.” (When God Winks at You.  SQUire Rushnell.  2006.  W Publishing Group.  Page 128)

Working with and leading your employees will give you not only a better vision of where you’re taking your own dream, but also a vision of life in the trenches of your own company/enterprise/dream. And both those visions will make things better for everyone, if you’re able to retain your humility and understanding.

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What makes a good leader?

A Google search will reveal a whole host of lists of characteristics that differentiate leaders from bosses. Some of those include listening to their employees and valuing their employees; leaders don’t’ command/tell, they lead. Leading by example is the best way because the people actually see what it is that needs to be done, and can learn from you as they work next to you.

Leaders lead and learn simultaneously. They have the idea and vision of where to take things, and so they must lead, out there in the front blazing the path. But as they do that, they also share with everyone else, their vision and excite them about it. At the same time, they recognize they don’t know everything, and they are smart enough to know when to keep their mouths shut and listen and learn from someone else, even if that person is the lowest person on the totem pole. A leader knows that everyone is smarter than him/her in at least one area, and they are willing to learn from others. Leaders also motivate; they don’t use fear to move their people.  Fear only works as long as someone is there with the gun, the stick, whatever the fear factor is. Motivating with vision gets down inside people and stays long after the boss has left the building.

The servant-leader

The next step up the ladder is the servant-leader.

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Besides just being out there working shoulder to shoulder with their employees, the servant-leader does their level best to make sure the employees—and therefore also the clients/customers—are being served. Is this job helping this person (or my people) grow and become better?  Is this company serving its employees in the best way possible? Are we serving the community in the best way possible?

If the servant-leader believes an employee will do better in another job they will help their employee find something better, be it in their own company or elsewhere. They encourage their people to educate themselves not only in the things of their business, but personally, recognizing that education opens more doors and possibilities to their employees.  But they don’t hesitate to lower the boom when necessary.

The question is what kind of leader will you be?

Featured photo credit: Emma Frances Logan Barker via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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