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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
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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?

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

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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