Management Style: Being a Leader Not Just a Boss

The difference between being a leader and a boss is more than simply the word someone uses to describe a supervisor. Employees perceive a leader and a boss in completely different ways, and leaders are far more effective than mere bosses, who often appear stuck in the 1950s, although they may view themselves as progressive. If you’re not sure about your management style, here are three quick questions to help determine how your employees see you — and what you can do keep from falling into the trap of ineffective management.

Do you do more talking or listening?

While no one expects you to be the guru on the mountaintop who gives succinct one word replies to problems, whether you spend more time telling others how to do their jobs or listening to their ideas makes a huge difference in how you are perceived by your employees.  Author and venture capitalist Allen Hall points out that those supervisors who presume to have all the answers are perceived as arrogant by employees. On the other hand, if you spend time listening to your employees, becoming familiar with their ideas and concerns, you will be respected and are likely to experience both personal and professional growth.

Do you tell people what to do or ask them what they can do?

If you have seen the now iconic film “Castaway,” you may remember Tom Hank’s character yelling at his employees to get the job done on a precise schedule. The employees, bored and rolling their eyes, lackadaisically follow suit.

If you’d rather be perceived as a leader than a boss, try letting your employees know what needs to be done and then asking them how they believe the task can best be accomplished. When you allow people to provide input into a process, they are more likely to be personally invested in the outcome. In addition to getting better employee performance, your workers will perceive you as thoughtful rather than dictatorial.

Do you criticize or coach?

While there is always a place for constructive criticism, telling an employee “You spend too much time talking and not enough time researching leads” is not as helpful as working with the person on time-management skills and goal-setting. Criticism sends the message that you are displeased with a person’s work, whereas coaching lets her know that you value her contribution and want to help her to be even more effective.