Why every successful company is driven by a business leader, not a boss

November 15, 2017 2:29 pm

When it comes to discussing the qualities of a successful business leader during workshops and seminars around entrepreneurial development, I – like many – find myself comparing the broad differences between a “leader” and a “boss”.

Why every successful company is driven by a business leader, not a boss

From my experience, a leader is the type of authority figure that you aspire to be – or simply to continue to work with. They’re empowering, motivating and, vitally, you can trust them with both your time and your finances.

A boss takes the “my way or the highway” attitude. You are, frankly, bossed around. You have no choice, no say and all you can do is what you’re told.

Over the last few decades, I’ve worked both for and alongside dozens of business leaders and difficult bosses. I’ve observed how employees and business acquaintances change when these different types of characters enter the room – the good, the bad and the ugly.

I’ve also seen how the companies of these different types of leadership skills perform over time.

And it’s become all too obvious to me that the behaviour and attitudes of the people running the show makes an enormous impact on the show itself – most notably on how much money it’s making.

In my own practices of running a business, I like to believe that I am on the ‘leader’ side of the spectrum. I make a conscious effort to listen before I speak, advise before I tell and create a space safe enough for people to voice their concerns if they need to.

When I try to explain this ‘leader vs. boss’ concept during public speaking events and entrepreneurship development sessions, I’m often met with a lot of scenario-led questions and urged to go into further details into how the two are different.

It’s with these experiences that I felt a post like this may be useful to delve into the characteristics that separate the two.

People vs process management

‘Leaders’ are called this for a reason: they lead the people. They don’t strive forwards by managing tasks; they manage the people doing the tasks.

Over my career, every business strategy I’ve ever written has had the people executing the strategy at the forefront of it – in most cases, I’ve already known who those people are, or at least the kind of person I’m looking for.

There’s a key reason for that – one I speak about all the time – it’s the people who make your business grow faster, not the processes you put in place.

Sure, processes are important, but the right skillset surpasses the right process anytime.

Bosses would disagree with me.

They can be one-track minded, believing that the process is always right over the people who are executing that process.

This can create a very isolating and demoralising environment, where employees feel micromanaged and therefore the impact on the business is minimal. It’s attitudes like these that encourage employees to find a workplace where they can have a higher impact – and therefore causing a far greater staff turnover.

Implementing wellbeing strategies vs instilling fear

Every stereotypical ‘boss horror story’ encapsulates the fear that they instil in their employees. We’ve all seen the scenes on the TV: people running to their desks and the bosses shoes clank together through the hallways, toilets being filled with crying employees fearful of losing their jobs and the deathly silence that shatters through the office as the dreaded boss walks in.

The worst thing about these scenes is that almost every single person I’ve spoken to has experienced them first hand.

I’ve seen them third hand far more times than I’d ever like to.

How could someone running a business not be mindful of the wellbeing of the employees helping them run it?

To oppose that practice, business leaders implement wellbeing strategies – similar to ones I’ve spoken about multiple times. They look out for the mental, emotional and physical health of their employees both in and outside of work.

And with that belief that care is not a luxury, they create a culture of trust.

Future thinking vs present focus

As a final – and extremely vital – point, leader’s look into the future. They foresee trouble and strategise solutions, they consider the employees in it for the long haul and invest in their development, and they even count in their own future circumstances, considering their part in the overall picture.

It’s with this forward-thinking that companies are able to go over the inevitable bumps in the road and keep their company intact. In some cases, they thrive faster and further because the foundations have been laid for the business to surpass the trouble ahead and come out even stronger.

For instance, in my experiences across the leisure sectors, both myself and other successful operators observe the times when business is quiet and plan far in advance to ensure that the demographic who would use their space during the quieter times are well catered for during the busier times. One example that springs to mind here is making sure that my various hotels and restaurants are fit for business meetings during January – usually by offering corporate discounts, more space for privacy and creating a different ambience through choices of music, food and entertainment.

Bosses put their energy into the present. They focus on the small mishaps happening around them rather than the potential icebergs ahead. They treat their staff like they could be replaced, rather than seeing the true value of a loyal, long-lasting ally putting their efforts into building their company.

By focusing on the ‘fires and furies’ of the now, bosses are putting their businesses in a position where they can never truly surpass the moment: they’ll always be putting out the same old fires and never learning how to build stronger, more secure foundations.

Every successful company strives towards a vision – and the only way that they can reach it is with a leader who inspires everyone around them to help them get there.

Mark Cushway is the CEO of the Inspired Group of companies and is passionate about employee welfare, engagement and motivation. Connect with Mark on Twitter and LinkedIn. This blog post is also available as a podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud.