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All Bosses Are not Leaders

It almost goes without saying that not every boss is an inspirational figure. So, what's the difference between a boss and a leader? More importantly, how can you use the understanding you gain from answering this question to become a better leader?

Start With Vision

Before you enhance your skills as a leader, you need to know what you're working towards. You need to become more than just a boss: You have to see the way forward for your team. Your leadership potential starts here. You grow as your vision develops from an idea, to a mental picture and finally, to a focused message of success.

Are you looking for a team to lead? More responsibility? You may be working with boss-grade goals. One of the most common characteristics of top leadership figures is their vision goes beyond conventional ideas of success.  

Aim For Mastery

If you think beyond climbing the organizational ladder, you'll start inspiring others to set their own goals higher, too. No matter how many people you're responsible for, or how important decisions you make are, there's always something more to aspire to.

I like to think about it in terms of golf. It's a game that takes constant practice and lifelong dedication to master. Even if you're part of a professional organization like the PGA, you still have the chance to set your own goals. The real leaders in golf are the ones who have big goals and dedicate their lives to the sport.

Keep in mind that mastery doesn't mean you'll hit a hole-in-one every chance you get. I count myself lucky to have sunk even one of these perfect shots, but that doesn't stop me from visualizing that level of success every time I step up to a par three.

Guide and Inspire

Now, imagine trying to instill that vision of a hole-in-one in someone who's just learning how to play the game. It probably isn't the type of thing you can simply demonstrate. Even if you could, it's unlikely a beginner would be able to replicate your level of success. How would you approach the problem?

A boss might tell the new golfer how to hold the club, how to swing and how to follow through — describing how to do things correctly. A leader might tell the story of a hole-in-one, describing the way it felt to sink the legendary shot.

Analyze and Grow 

Being a leader and avoiding falling back on bossiness means something different for everyone. For example, a hands-on leader may need to learn to step back and give the team some space. On the other hand, a good delegator may want to take some opportunities to get directly involved with projects.

Once you define your skill set and hone your vision, most of what's left comes down to practice. Commitment to improving your leadership skills is the best way to transition any bossy tendencies you have to a balanced, personalized style that inspires your team toward your vision of success.

LeadershipPhil Gafka