I’ve worked for a lot of managers in my life. I’ve been one, too. There have been great and not-so-great ones over the course of my career. Both have taught me a lot over the years, some showing me how to lead, others showing by example how not to lead. Through it all, I’ve come to realize that the term manager isn’t really a good word to describe the person who’s in charge.
Because people aren’t managers — they’re either bosses or they’re leaders. They can’t be both.
The difference isn’t really clear at first. You might consider the terms boss and leader to mean the same thing. Trust me, they’re not. You have to be very careful about who you work for. Because your boss will influence what you spend your time learning by the examples they set every day.
If your boss drives people, you may not learn the importance of coaching and investing in others so they can improve.
If your boss depends on their authority to influence others, you may not learn how to rely on goodwill to get things done.
If your boss manages out of fear, you may not learn how to create genuine enthusiasm for the work and why the team’s work is important and matters.
If your boss demands respect, you may not learn how to earn respect.
If your boss depends on hearsay to address problems, you may not learn the art of investigating an issue before addressing it.
If your boss criticizes those who struggle, you may not learn the joy of helping someone get back on their feet and overcome what’s holding them back.
If your boss takes credit when the team wins, you may not learn that a leader should give the credit to anyone on his team except for himself.
If your boss knows it all, you might not learn that a leader should be more interested in asking questions about what they don’t know so they can learn.
If your boss enjoys being in the limelight, you may not learn the importance of quietly blowing out your own candle so someone else’s can burn brighter.
We spend so much time in jobs, working for bosses that don’t teach us by example how to become better people. And we often put up with it because looking for something new is too much work.
If we were as picky about who we work for as recruiters are when hiring the right candidate, we’d be far better people. Because not every job or boss or client is worth your time, attention, and love.
Where you work matters. Who you work for matters. And who you become in the process matters most of all.