The old industrial models of production lines, quotas and straightforward outcomes are no longer relevant in the information and service-oriented businesses in which many of us work today. Yet, strangely, the idea of ‘the boss,’ the order-barking foreman of the old-school factory floor, is one that still persists. This is the results-driven overseer of production. Their ethos is hierarchical rather than collaborative and often oversees work from above, rather than being in the workshop among the workers. In military terms, this is the general who shouts orders from the rear, rather than leading the troops into battle. On the contrary, it’s the upfront leader, or the one who stands among their subordinates, that much of today’s business really requires.
The Captain of the Ship
Don’t get us wrong, every ship needs a captain. Without a driver that brings all the team’s efforts together through a unifying vision, efficiency and productivity tend to take a dive. The question is: what kind of captain do you need – a boss or a leader?
The difference between the two is best summarised as the distinction between task-orientation and people-orientation. The boss says, “This must be done. I’m paying you to do it; now do it.” The leader says, “We, as a team, are all invested in this particular task. How best can we all work together to complete it?” For both, the goal remains the same – the work must be done. However, the boss looks at the task and regards people only as a means to accomplish it. The leader, on the other hand, focuses on the team, asking how each individual – including themselves– can best serve the task and how the task, in turn, can develop the skills of each team member.
Be An Inclusive Leader
While having no captain at all can be deadly to productivity, a captain who is more inclined towards boss-style leadership can be just as much a hindrance. An inclusive leader, commanding the team from the front, rather than making demands from the back, is likely to drive a far more effective team.
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