SHERIDAN — What does it take to turn a boss into a leader? Local leadership trainers describe the difference between a boss and a leader as someone who moves beyond enforcing policies to focusing on the people they have been promoted or hired to lead.
Scott Lee is a Sheridan-based speaker, coach and trainer with the John Maxwell Team. In his professional life, Lee has experienced bosses that simply focused on production, policies and processes over people.
“There seemed to be little concern about me personally,” Lee said about a former boss. “No matter how I felt about my day and the accomplishments within it, it was never enough to please those over me. I left every day feeling like I had failed.”
Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce CEO Dixie Johnson agrees that a focus on teamwork and people matter. She leads a team of coworkers at the Chamber office and helps organize Leadership Sheridan County for professionals in the community each year.
“Any leader in an organization needs to establish trust with their team,” Johnson said. “That usually comes from experience with each other.”
When Johnson presents a new idea to her team at the Chamber, she fully expects and trusts that her team will speak up if it does not agree or wants to offer suggestions on how to improve the organization.
If a team member of hers is comfortable enough to speak up in those moments, that is a sign of trust within the organization.
Lee experienced a boss that exemplified leadership qualities by caring for him and taking consideration for his family.
“He took time to ask how I was and then he listened,” Lee said. “He would even ask me good follow-up questions to the things that I had spoken about with him on previous occasions.”
This made Lee feel like his boss was indeed listening, thus encouraging Lee to offer suggestions on how to make things better in the workplace.
The transition from boss to leader after a promotion comes with its own set of struggles and growing pains, but starting as a good follower helps a subordinate focus on future goals and desires to become an effective leader.
“As a subordinate, ask good questions, listen well, take good notes and strive for excellence,” Lee said. “See yourself as adding value to the team no matter where you serve with the company. If you are giving your best, then no matter what level you serve in the organization, you can make a difference and position yourself for opportunities.”
Lee also said focusing on serving people helps one transition well into leadership roles.
“No matter what we do in a company, we are never too important to serve,” Lee said. “In fact, the greatest of leaders know that they are servants.”
Lee said a leader looks to what he can give to his team, while a boss is only concerned about what he can get from an employee.
Transforming a boss into a leader requires a care for people, not just a to-do list of results-driven action, and people like Lee and Johnson are working to bring that to their workplaces and continue to mentor others in Sheridan County to do the same.