When you look back on your life, whether it is in your professional, recreational or family life, what characteristics did the people you look up to have? Think back to your favorite teacher, coach, mentor, boss or friend. I would wager that they had a few things in common: they were there for you when you needed them. They didn’t say “I told you so” rather they listened and guided. They made you feel important and successful by praising you in public and ridiculing you in private. They didn’t always tell you what you wanted to hear but rather constructively gave you the truth. They made you feel important, related to you, didn’t claim to be perfect and led by example.
As I look back on my short, yet eventful, leadership development I can distinctly name the people whom have had the greatest impact on my life. They weren’t always the people that were easy one me, in fact my best relationships developed with the people who were the hardest on me. These people did so in a way that let me know that they were being hard because they cared about me, and about my development. They were in the position they were in for all the right reasons, not because they were “control freaks” but because they wanted to develop people; they found success through the success of others. They took personal responsibility for my failures and stood in the shadows during my successes with only a grin of accomplishment.
The biggest misconception that I have seen in my short professional career is that because you are a boss, you are a leader. I’ve heard comments such as “well, I get results”. I argue that results do not equate to leadership. Why are people doing what you are asking/telling them to do? Are they doing it out of fear? Respect? Trust? Because they believe in it? Because they have ownership of that task? What do you do after those people complete the task? Do you sit back and pat yourself on the back and say “good job boss, you are a great leader”? Leadership is about being on the front lines with your staff, down in the trenches. It’s about being able to support and guide your staff with a gentle hand, so gentle that they don’t even realize it’s there. Leadership is a tricky thing and I argue that it’s not about getting results; it’s about having a team that does things that they buy into and take ownership of. What happens after that task is done is just as important as the task itself. Leadership is about giving credit to your team and making them feel good about what they have accomplished, or taking complete responsibility if that task fails. I argue that a leader gets the same results as a boss but the people they are leading feel much differently afterwards. Don’t confuse being a boss with being a leader, and don’t think you can’t be a leader if you’re not the boss.
Brandon Hess is a certified veterinary practice manager. He is currently the Practice Manager of a large specialty practice in southwest Ohio. Brandon has a diverse leadership background including experience in retail management, collegiate and semi-professional athlete and captain, and numerous organizational leadership roles.