Today is the day you stop being a boss and start being a leader. It is important to remember that being a leader is something you should strive to achieve in life and in business.

My Friend Gordon Tredgold sums it up best when he says, “Even when we don’t have a team, we can still lead others.” He goes on to say, “Leadership is all about influence. Our very actions can inspire and influence others to try new things or to keep going when times get hard.”

We can go even further to say that some people are natural leaders. They are the people you follow without question. They are the people that inspire you to do more or keep going. The reality is, natural leaders are no different than you or I, they have just figured out what to say and do to inspire, educate, mentor, and guide people. Before we jump into the traits of great leaders, we are going to discuss some of the other words that people often associate.

Job titles and job descriptions are terrible at assigning bad terms to leaders. Words like director, head, lead, and manager are used. In reality, those are all terms that lead to my least favorite leadership word, BOSS.

When I ask people what they think about the title boss I hear responses like ruler, 

Boss strutting with crown

principal, or dictator. What I have discovered is that people equate the term boss in a very negative way. The people that fall into the boss category have created this for themselves. They have let their egos step in and drive their actions. They will never truly appreciate or recognize knowledge, talent, or experience around them. If the can learn how to step away from their ego, only then will they be able to enter the world of a leader

So how do you go from a boss to a leader?

Hold People accountable

Holding people accountable is easy in theory, but, there is a lot of grey area when you are talking about people. If you had siblings, you know exactly what I am talking about. The oldest seemed to always have the book thrown at them and the youngest seemed to get away with everything. Let’s be honest, our parents did not mean for it to happen that way, it just played out that way. What makes leaders different is they have figured out how to be fair and consistent equally across the board.

This doesn’t mean you have to go around and nail everyone to the wall because they were 30 seconds late for the start of the workday. These are people we are dealing with, and every situation is different. What is important is that you are measuring every situation against the same scale. 

Simply put, if you are going to hold one person accountable for an action, then everyone else should be held accountable in the same way for that action. 

Listen and communicate effectively

Interestingly enough, the most effective communication doesn’t start with you talking. Listening is the first step in effective communication. I don’t think it is coincidental that we have two ears but only one mouth.

We first need to listen to understand what the person has to say before we can respond effectively. People often talk about the difference between hearing and listening. The best way to define it is, hearing tells you the music is playing but listening tells you what the song is saying.

Hearing tells you the music is playing but listening tells you what the song is saying

After listening, clarifying and understanding it is now your turn to talk. Hold on before you spit any old thing out though, leaders use positive language and power phrasing to uplift, encourage and influence those around them. They use words like great, excellent, absolutely, cool, believe, and optimistic. These types of words naturally uplift and encourage the people you speak with. Great leaders are constantly using this type of language.

When you use those positive words it sounds something like this, “ Jon, I know you have been struggling, but I am optimistic that our conversation today has provided some tools to help you be successful as you move forward.”

If you have been on the receiving end of this conversation you know how good this makes you feel as you walk away.

Be a mentor, not a preacher

Leaders do not give a sermon from behind their desk about what you should be doing. They are in the trenches with you guiding you, encouraging you and showing you how it should be done. They not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk!

Think about when you learned how to ride a bike. You may have started with training wheels, then someone ran alongside you helping to hold you up. Eventually, they let go and you were able to balance. This is the exact principle of being a mentor. Show them how it is done with the training wheels on, take the training wheels off but support them and help them with their uncertainty before setting them free to ride off into the sunset. Teach them how to walk before you ask them to run.

Admit when you are wrong

Whenever I present this I always ask by show of hands who has made a mistake? Inevitably only about half the room raises their hands. I politely remind them that everyone makes mistakes and it is OK!

What’s not ok, passing the blame off on someone else so we appear god-like in our boss status. Another truth bomb, 99% of mistakes are not life or death. Why are we so concerned with covering them up? 

Did anyone die as a result of your mistake?

Leadership is about trust. Do you know one of the best ways to build trust? Owning your mistakes and find a way to solve them. One of the key reasons people follow leaders is they trust the direction. While you may think that making a mistake would jeopardize that trust, owning it instead of passing off blame will actually strengthen that trust. It will show that you understand how to steer the ship when things change.

Encourage Creativity

As a leader, it is important to encourage creativity. In fact, the people doing the work will have far better ideas on how to improve than you will. Steve Jobs sums it up best when he says, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

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By empowering our teams to come up with solutions we will get more ideas that are rooted in the heart of any problems. By listening and ultimately implementing ideas from your team you could find cost savings, build in efficiency, or get rid of the 3000-line spreadsheet from 1995 that you do all of your productivity tracking on.

Listen to all ideas and figure out which ones will work, and which ones won’t. Be honest and prompt about feedback. Include the why behind what will work and what will not. This will empower your team to grow that idea to something that may work in the future. 

Be Passionate about people

When it all comes down to it, the best leaders are passionate about people. They are the leaders that go out of their way to say hi and make sure you have everything you need to bee successful. They are busy getting to know people beyond the walls of work instead of scheduling pointless meetings. They are also the same people that will interrupt their day to ensure you have a great day. Being passionate about people is taking time to focus on and elevate those around you. When you elevate them, they will elevate you! Remember you can’t be a leader if you have no followers.


·        Hold people accountable while being fair and consistent.

·        Listen first, then communicate back using positive uplifting language.

·        Be a mentor, guide, and educator. Get in the trenches and show them.

·        Admit you are wrong and own the resolution.

·        Encourage your team to overcome obstacles with creative solutions.

·        Be passionate about people.

You have the tools, now it is time to go from boss to leader.