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  • Writer's pictureSterling Grey

Rethinking Leadership: My Guide to Moving from Boss to Inspiring Leader


In my career as an executive coach, I've encountered two distinct types of people at the helm of organizations: The Boss and The Leader. Both are in charge, but their approach and impact couldn't be more different.


What I obsess about is how to reframe and reshape the thinking of leaders to help them be as effective as possible. I’m sharing this thread because it’s a frequent topic of conversation among my clients.


The Evolution of Leadership: There is an evolution that takes place when you become responsible for the other people on the field. Like all growth, it requires that you face challenges and deepen your self-awareness for your own strength muscles and soft spots. The aim is increased maturity. You are putting in the reps to build the strength to do heavy lifting and have hard conversations. The journey looks a little something like this.


First, you go from being a valued team player to becoming Captain. You are now the point person and go to. You migrate from being accountable for tasks to being responsible for outcomes. That might sound subtle but it’s heavy. Until you build the endurance it may feel like the world is on your shoulders and critique of your performance hinges on the performance of others. Which you may feel is largely outside of your control.


Then the penny drops that the job is no longer about how excellent your performance and output is, but rather how well you can orchestrate the team to execute the plays. You not only have to hold them accountable, but you also have to inspire them to reach for their potential. Your success depends on it.


Second, you graduate from Captain to Coach. This is where I spend the most time with my clients. It is arguably the hardest transition to make and where businesses fail to support some of the most valuable members of the organization.


Think about this. Jordan was one of the best players and team captains ever. He was also one of the worst coaches ever. Too many organizations take for granted that their best players will make great coaches. This. Is. A. Fail.


One of the hardest things for a star player to do is give up possession of the ball and cultivate, nurture, and trust that the other players will execute. Unlike sports, there are no flags or immediate penalties when the corporate Coach steps onto the field and takes possession. However, there are many intangible sacrifices made.


Unraveling Boss vs. Leader: The terms 'boss' and 'leader' might seem interchangeable, but their implications in the workplace are worlds apart. A boss usually centers on procedures and compliance, maintaining the status quo. On the other hand, a leader is a harbinger of change, nurturing innovation and promoting team growth. This difference isn't just about actions; it reflects a fundamental divergence in mindset.


Insights from My Journey: For almost a decade I’ve spent the majority of my time dissecting leaders to examine the best and most destructive traits. I've seen firsthand how the boss vs. leader dynamic plays out.


Here’s are hard truth, most employees leave their jobs due to poor management. This revelation underscores the need for leadership that inspires and empowers, rather than just oversees and directs.


Embracing the Leader’s Path: Here are a number of the best parts of leaders that I’ve bottled up and keep in my coaching lab. These are the key steps to evolve from a boss to a leader:


Mastering Communication:

  • Communication is the bedrock of effective leadership. It's about creating a two-way street for feedback and ideas, ensuring everyone feels heard and valued. The hack to practice is to lead with inquiry. Ask more questions than you make assertions or assumptions.

The Power of Positive Reinforcement:

  • Leaders view mistakes as growth opportunities, offering constructive feedback and celebrating effort but not neglect. This cultivates a culture of learning and loyalty.

Empowerment Over Micromanagement:

  • This is a hard one. Especially when you are under pressure because “the buck stops with you” and all that. However, you’ll get more mileage out of autonomy than a short leash. Yes, you will take some punches from upper mgmt. when mistakes are made.

Living Accountability:

  • This is about sticking your chin out and owning your decisions and actions. You cannot always make the right decision, but you can make a decision and then make it right by learning and adapting.

  • Set a powerful example of integrity and commitment to continuous improvement.

Value Creation Beyond Metrics:

  • Effective leadership focuses on nurturing team potential, aligning organizational goals with employee growth, thus creating deeper value.

Active Listening:

  • “What does that mean for you?” More than just hearing words, it’s about probing to understand the deeper messages and ideas, fostering a culture of inclusivity and trust.

Fairness and Equality:

  • Ensuring equal opportunities and recognition within the team builds a positive and motivated workforce.

Mentoring Future Leaders:

  • A crucial role of a leader is to nurture the next generation of leadership, ensuring a legacy of strong, effective management. Ask yourself this, “who is ready to step into the next level role? How far off is their maturity and what am I engineering to exercise their capabilities?”

Conclusion: True leadership transcends mere execution of tasks. It’s about uplifting, inspiring, and guiding your team towards collective success. I have seen firsthand how embracing these leadership principles is not only rewarding but also instrumental in driving meaningful change. As we navigate the complexities of modern business, the transformation from boss to leader is not just beneficial; it's essential.


Call to Action: To go deeper on this journey give me a shout!



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