Boss vs. Leader

This image has floated around the Internet for many years. It is a great visual representation of the difference between a boss and leader. In my own leadership I try to refrain from asking anyone who is following me to do something I’m unwilling to at least try myself. This is a great principle and often helps people get behind the work I’m asking of them.

The picture of the leader struggling with the followers is a stark comparison to the boss image. Of course this image congers up the Biblical story of the Egyptian Pharaoh commanding the Jews to make bricks without straw. A domineering dictator is obviously not a leader, especially when harsh punishment is the reward for rebellion. We all have been in settings where the employees feel that there is a serious price to pay for disobedience to the boss. This is the reality of why many women have been forced into sexual situations with their supervisor.

            A good leader brings the followers into the mission by showing their commitment and helping them to see how their individual contributions help the mission succeed. Yet, there are still times when a leader needs to be directive.

            Did you notice the location of the boss in the upper image? Not only is the boss not helping, but the boss it part of the burden to be pulled. I have had numerous conversations with friends, parishioners and coaching clients who feel the weight of carrying their boss. If we must be directive we also need to acknowledge that we can become part of the burden. To become part of the burden is unfair and negates our leadership. When a good leader needs to be directive they must give clear expectations and then let the workers loose.

  • How have you experienced the weight of a leader in your work?
  • What do you do to ensure you aren’t a burden to your followers?
  • What other insights do you see from this image?
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