Article for the day!

12 Signs You’re Working in a Feature Factory

I’ve used the term Feature Factory at a couple conference talks over the past two years. I started using the term when a software developer friend complained that he was “just sitting in the factory, cranking out features, and sending them down the line.”

How do you know if you’re working in a feature factory?

  1. No measurement. Teams do not measure the impact of their work. Or, if measurement happens, it is done in isolation by the product management team and selectively shared. You have no idea if your work worked
  2. Rapid shuffling of teams and projects (aka Team Tetris). Instead of compelling missions or initiatives, teams deal in feature and project assignments. Chronic multitasking and over-utilization
  3. Success theater around “shipping” with little discussion about impact. You can tell a great deal about an organization by what it celebrates
  4. Infrequent (acknowledged) failures and scrapped work. No removed features. Primary measure of success is delivered features, not delivered outcomes. Work is rarely discarded in light of data and learning. Often the team lacks the prerequisite safety to admit misfires
  5. No connection to core metrics. Infrequent discussions about desired customer and business outcomes. Team cannot connect work to key business and customer satisfaction metrics. Impossible to connect iterations to “what matters most”
  6. No PM retrospectives. Product managers do not conduct regular retrospectives on the quality of their product decisions and compare expected benefits to actual benefits. Developers have “passing tests”, but product managers do not. Product managers view velocity and output as their key performance indicator
  7. Obsessing about prioritization. Mismatch between prioritization rigor (deciding what gets worked on) and validation rigor (deciding if it was, in fact, the right thing to work on). Prioritization rigor is designed exclusively to temper internal agendas so that people “feel confident”. Lots of work goes into determining which ideas to work on, leaving little leeway for adjustments and improvisation based on data. Roadmaps show a list of features, not areas of focus and/or outcomes
  8. No tweaking. Once work is “done”, the team moves immediately on to the next “project”, leaving no time to iterate based on qualitative and quantitative data
  9. Culture of hand-offs. Front-loaded process in place to “get ahead of the work” so that items are “ready for engineering”. Team is not directly involved in research, problem exploration, or experimentation and validation. Once work is shipped, team has little contact with support, customer success, and sales
  10. Large batches. Without the mandate to experiment, features are delivered in single large batches instead of delivering incrementally. You might still work in sprints (yay, we’re “Agile”), but nothing new is reaching customers at the conclusion of each sprint
  11. Chasing upfront revenue. Features are implemented to close new deals. While not inherently wrong, the economic justifications are often flimsy (at best), and fail to account for the non-linear increase in product complexity (you make the quarter, but you pay for it many times over later). Again, this reinforces the idea that features are the unit of value measurement. Product decisions lack a sound economic grounding
  12. Shiny objects. Low visibility for refactoring work and debt work-down. Low visibility for overall value delivery capabilities. As mentioned, primary measure of success is new feature output. Little appreciation for the health of the whole product as opposed to shiny new objects. Little awareness around impact of new features on usability (and maintainability and extensibility) of existing product

For translations of this post see: Korean

I’ve written about addressing this problem. Check out these posts:

Article for the day

DO YOU HAVE A FEAR-BASED WORK CULTURE? HERE’S HOW TO FIX IT!

If fear-based tactics are being used as a driver in your workplace, it could have a negative effect on your time, money, relationships, and psychological well-being.

Do you know where your organization’s culture currently stands?

A Close Look at the Problem

Fear can manifest in the workplace in many ways, but it typically occurs with a trickle-down effect, where ineffective leaders employ fear-based tactics to control the behavior of employees.

Leaders who try to hold people accountable with fear may not realize they’re doing it. Or, if they’re doing it intentionally, they may try to argue that fear gets things done. But using fear as a driver provides only short-term motivation and short-term resentful compliance.

When employees become resentful toward leadership, stress levels and employee turnover rise, while workplace satisfaction, happiness, and psychological well-being plummet. The effects of fear-based tactics can negatively impact employee engagement, the customer experience, and even brand reputation—when employees are stressed and fearful, this dissatisfaction can potentially seep into conversations with clients, and their frustrations with their organization’s culture may be voiced word of mouth or via internet, serving as a red flag to potential candidates.

In his best-selling book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink identifies three various levels of motivation:

Motivation 1.0 – To survive.

Motivation 2.0 – To seek reward and avoid punishment.

Motivation 3.0 – To seek autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Many organizations find themselves stuck in a fear-based 2.0 culture where leaders and employees are compelled to avoid something, whether it’s failure, termination, or some other unwanted consequence. It consists of punishing the bad and rewarding the good.

In order to move into Motivation 3.0—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—leaders have to provide trust, growth opportunities, and meaning in order to achieve it. In motivation 3.0, our work transcends fear and instead becomes intrinsic and purpose-driven.

When fear is present in an organization, it can lead to what Pink has termed “The Seven Deadly Flaws”:

1. It can extinguish intrinsic motivation.

2. It can diminish performance.

3. It can crush creativity.

4. It can crowd out good behavior.

5. It can encourage cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior.

6. It can become addictive.

7. It can foster short-term thinking.

The opposite of a fear-based culture is a culture where everyone within the organization feels psychologically safe. Coined by Harvard Business professor Amy Edmonson, the term psychological safety is “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.” When there’s no fear of punishment, it leads to more innovation, increased productivity, and an authentic environment of candor.

It may be hard to categorize your culture as either fear-based or psychologically safe. Imagine these two terms on a spectrum, and your organization will fall somewhere on this spectrum. Even if you would place your organization closer to the psychologically safe end of the spectrum, any lingering fear that does exist, even in small amounts, can create big problems.

Identifying a Fear-Based Culture

Some fear-based tactics are obvious, such as delivering a punishment for poor performance. Others, such as a lack of communication, can be harder to identify when you aren’t even aware that there’s an unaddressed problem.

Below are some common characteristics of fear-based cultures. Have you witnessed any of the following behaviors in your organization?

1. There are things you don’t talk about, can’t talk about, or don’t feel comfortable talking about. At Fierce, we call them Mokitas. Mokita is a Papua New Guinean term for something that everyone knows but no one talks about. The fewer mokitas, the healthier the tribe. That thing that we know and feel compelled to not talk about because the consequences may not be “pleasant.” In a psychologically-safe culture, no problem is off-limits, and employees feel comfortable discussing issues with leadership. Confrontation takes place when needed, and feedback is given on the fly.

2. Employee mistakes are met with some sort of punishment or unwanted consequence. Rather than supporting employees in their development, ineffective leaders will try to improve performance with fear-based tactics including threats, various forms of intimidation, passive aggressive behavior such as the silent treatment, secrecy, or manipulation. In a psychologically safe environment, failures are met with support and development opportunities. Leaders are transparent and use coaching conversations to help employees identify their own personal values and desires that will aid their development.

3. Leaders are micromanaging. A leader who micromanages is a fearful leader. They’re rarely satisfied with deliverables and nitpick tiny details that can slow project timelines and dishearten employees. They may doubt the ability of employees to handle tasks and fear delegating new tasks, which puts a damper on development opportunities. Effective leaders who want to create a psychologically-safe environment will grant trust and autonomy to employees, acting as a supportive guide for personal and professional development.

4. Siloed and/or One-way Communication. Healthy cultures have top-down, bottom-up, and cross-department communication. If conversations are only happening in one direction or aren’t happening at all, it hinders transparency and openness, which makes it harder to establish a sense of trust in leadership within an organization. Leaders and employees need to be on the same page when it comes to feedback—it’s a two-way conversation. Leaders need to give feedback to employees, and employees need to feel safe giving feedback to leaders.

While the full list of fear-based behaviors is more extensive than what we’ve listed here, these are some of the primary culprits. If you’ve experienced any of these behaviors, it’s time to make a change in your organization.

The Conversation is the Relationship

In 2012, Google launched an initiative called “Project Aristotle” to study the lives of their employees and determine what factors mattered most for creating a successful team. Long story short, Google’s data concluded that psychological safety, more than anything else, was critical to making a team work:

“What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘work face’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘psychologically safe,’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy.”

The study identified that real connections are what create a sense of psychological safety, with communication and empathy being the main building blocks of these connections.

When conversation is skillful, empathic, and nurturing to the relationship, it builds the cohesion and connections that fuel a healthy culture. As we say at Fierce, C=R=C. The conversation is the relationship is the culture. The better your conversations, the better your relationships and culture will be.

Establishing a Psychologically-Safe Workplace

DECISIONWISE BENCHMARK STUDY of over 100,000 employees found that 34% of employees in the U.S. do not speak up out of fear of retribution. If you want to see a culture shift, “speaking up” needs to be actively encouraged, and when employees do speak up, their perspectives need to be met with respect and consideration. They need to know that you want to know their thoughts.

Psychological safety is shaped by skillful conversations and a growth-oriented, supportive, and empathic approach to employee performance. Here are the top three most important conversations to start having now:

1. DELEGATE – Leaders need to muster up the courage and willingness to delegate. Losing control and ownership of certain tasks can be uncomfortable at first, but granting employees trust, confidence, and growth opportunities engages and enlivens teams. Successful delegation also allows leaders to free up time, space, and energy to place their focus where it’s needed most.

2. COACH – Have a one-on-one conversation with someone in your organization to dive deeper and address the most pressing issue. Effective coaching conversations help guide employees to healthy, desired action and allow them to chart their own course of development with self-generated insight. When there is no advice-giving on behalf of the coach, it provides a self-actualization opportunity for the coachee.

3. TEAM – Encourage team members to share ideas openly without filtering or trying to assess whether the ideas have merit. The best brainstorming is unfiltered, and if you’re interested in generating the best ideas, employees need to feel safe enough to express themselves freely.

If you’re an individual contributor and you feel leadership either doesn’t support “speaking up” or they haven’t communicated their support, don’t wait for them to do so. We highly encourage you to bring up the issue to your supervisor. And we know how hard this can be—especially if you fear there might be a consequence to speaking up. However, if you want to empower yourself and those you work with and create positive change, it will require you to initiate what could be a somewhat risky conversation. One conversation can make all the difference.

Read more in our latest eBook HERE about all five of the most critical conversations you need to be having to transform your culture and create lasting change.

If—BY RUDYARD KIPLING

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

n/a

Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

Good article for the day

Steve Jobs Once Gave Some Brilliant Management Advice on Hiring Top People. Here It Is in 2 Sentences

By Marcel Schwantes

Every boss in a hiring role should appreciate this simple yet profound advice from the former head of Apple.

Steve Jobs may have had an enormous ego as the head of Apple, but he understood his place in the information age when he famously quipped,

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.

Genius and profound. Your best move is to intentionally not be the smartest person in the room. And other iconic figures would agree. As Lee Iacocca once said, “I hire people brighter than me and get out of their way.”

While smart people may be found up and down your organizational chart, there’s a more specific term for the type of people Jobs and Iacocca were referencing: knowledge workers.

The Age of the Knowledge Worker

Coined by management expert Peter Drucker in 1959, the term knowledge workers refers to people whose main capital is to think for a living. They work with their heads, not their hands, to plan, analyze, organize, test, program, distribute, search, market, or otherwise generally contribute to the transformation of information in the knowledge economy.

Drucker asserted quite prophetically before his death in 2005 that increasing the productivity of knowledge workers was the most important contribution managers needed to make in the 21st century.

That leads to the million-dollar question: How do you manage them? How do you manage highly paid, independent thinkers who like to control the process of their own work and don’t like to be managed, and who own their organization’s means of innovating, developing, and producing?

The same way as everyone else. You treat them as valued human beings.

This obviously will require strong leadership. The good news is that to lead the smartest people in the building, you don’t need to be smarter than them.

3 Keys to Leading the Knowledge Worker

Like all high performers, knowledge workers take pride in their work and want to serve their customers well. And they want to grow and reach new possibilities along their career path.

Three ways leaders can engage and inspire their knowledge workers are:

1. Redistribute decision making.

In a knowledge economy, top-down hierarchical management styles that direct traffic one-way with no input will collapse, because employees typically know more than bosses do about their own areas of specialization.

And being closer to the ground, they may also know more about the customer’s needs, wishes, and expectations to problem solve, delight, and offer a richer customer experience. That’s why Drucker advised managers, “Knowledge workers have to manage themselves. They have to have autonomy.”

Conversely, high-performing organizations that empower their knowledge workers are typically flatter. Information is shared openly across fewer reporting levels, and people are able to use it to make the right decisions quicker.

Take a cue from luxury retail chain Nordstrom, headquartered in Seattle. It has a strong culture of empowering its employees to make decisions on the frontlines. In Nimble, Focused, Feisty, author Sara Roberts, executive consultant to Fortune 500 companies, describes the Nordstrom way:

Nordstrom structures itself so that employees are empowered to treat customers as they themselves would like to be treated. Employees are encouraged to exercise good judgment to do whatever is necessary to satisfy the customer. Meanwhile, the hierarchy of the organization is structured to support those front-line employees in that task. Why? Because Nordstrom believes that the relationships between customer and employee is critical to capturing that customer long-term.

Other organizations that distribute decision-making flatten their authority closest to the user, research, product, or market because this is where the best solutions will be recognized and can be responded to most quickly.

2. Support and lead teamwork.

In the knowledge economy, leaders build community by developing strong relationships. This means investing in time with your most valued workers to learn who they really are.

Let me ask you a question: As a leader, how well do you know the people who work closest to you? Do you know the events of their lives that have shaped who they are today? Do you know their dreams and plans for the future? Leaders use relationships and strong bonds to foster great collaboration.

In supporting a team atmosphere, leaders leverage relationships to make sure there’s alignment between their workers’ personal goals and the company’s business goals. When it’s clear that there’s misalignment, leaders must find a happy compromise (as long as it doesn’t hurt the business).

Supporting and leading teamwork extends to valuing workers’ input on things like hiring and promotion decisions. Leaders may even charge the team with new team member performance to show trust in their judgment.

In the end, ensuring a strong team approach comes down to leaders checking their egos at the door and relying on the collective wisdom of the team.

Karen Dillon, the former editor of Harvard Business Review and a co-author of Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choicewrites in HBR:

When I finally focused on being a real leader, instead of a nervous new manager, I started asking my colleagues how we could best get the work done rather than simply figuring it out by myself. I think it signaled to them that I cared about their opinion and expertise, and that I was not assuming I was a one-man band.

Dillon says that her team ended up winning a top industry award the following year — an achievement she attributes to a strong team, but only after she let them have a hold of the reins.

3. Listen more than talk to show you value their expertise.

This is really an extension of the last point because it’s so important for success. Building personal relationships is the best way to make sure your employees feel heard. This means the most receptive leaders will listen to their needs, ask what matters most to them, and genuinely figure out a way to develop them in the direction they want to go.

Retired U.S. Air Force colonel, leadership consultant, and author Lee Ellis recently interviewed Tom Crawford of Crawford Corporate Coaching, who framed knowledge workers in such a succinct way:

  • Knowledge is powerful.
  • Knowledge shared is more powerful.
  • Knowledge from the people in the company who touch it every day is the most powerful of all.

Expanding on these points in his LinkedIn post, Ellis says that “leaders need to be listening to the ideas and insights from people at the lower levels.” While that’s seems like a no-brainer, Ellis says the opposite is often true: “The higher you go in the organization, the harder it is to ‘lean down’ and listen.”

“Strategic listening is not a natural, common practice among busy senior leaders, because it requires time and patience and a positive belief in the power and capacity of others,” states Ellis.

He adds, “And like all the other great leadership attributes, strategic listening requires the rare leadership combination of confidence and humility that few of us naturally have.”

Closing Thoughts

If you find yourself managing the smartest people in the room, remember this: The universal human need of every knowledge worker is not unlike that of the rest of us. It’s to perform meaningful work, be respected, collaborate in a tight-knit community of excellence and shared values, and ultimately make an impact for good in the world. And the biggest aspiration for their leaders is a matter of the heart: to make their people better workers and better human beings.

Boss vs Leader: 25 Major Differences

Regardless of your organization’s size, your management team is a key factor in its success. The list below is intended to help small business owners and managers go beyond just being bosses to being leaders who can inspire and motivate employees. All small businesses can benefit by adopting strong leadership principles and knowing the difference between boss vs leader will help your firm stand out from competitors.

Here are the 25 main ways experts said that leaders differ from bosses:


Yuri Khlystov - boss vs leader

1. Leaders Handle Stress with Confidence

Yuri Khlystov, LaowaiCareer

As a leader myself, I know how important it is to be a good leader and how much of a difference it can make to a work force.

When looking for a leader, I always try to keep my eye on how a person reacts when put in a stressful situation. If they react with confidence and certainty, I know that they have the potential to be a leader. If, however, they make excuses or try to blame someone else, I know that they aren’t leadership material.

Pinpointing a person’s attitude when they’re at their lowest is probably the best indicator of how they will perform in the future. With business, there are always setbacks and problems. It’s not whether a leader causes them, but how they react when it comes time to fix them.


Matt Spaulding - boss vs leader

2. Leaders are Purpose Driven

Matt Spaulding, Spaulding Communications

Being a leader takes a lot more work than being a boss. But it is well worth it. Leaders are typically driven by a clear purpose or mission. Because of this, they need to inspire and empower their people; they need those that work for them to share in in their purpose with them. Doing this requires a lot of effort.

Leaders need to clearly articulate their vision and provide ways for their people to share in achieving that vision. A boss, on the other hand, simply wants the job done. “Here is your list of activities, now execute.” This is much easier than being a leader. When you inspire people to share in your vision, as a small business owner, you gain multiple advantage: employee satisfaction, strategic organizational alignment, etc. When you’re a boss, you may get the job done. But you’re not building for the future or creating a strong company culture with a clear mission or purpose.


Ashley Cox-boss vs leader

3. Leaders Know How to Truly Delegate

Ashley Cox, Sprout HR

A boss can be insecure and would have a hard time trusting others. They hire team members who know less than they do, so they can control them. A leader is secure in their abilities and knows their weaknesses. They hire team members who complement them and are more skilled in areas where they are weak. They know that they are able to do their best work when they trust others to do their best work.

For the same reason, a boss tends to never truly delegate. They assign tasks and micromanage their team members because they believe no one can do something as well as they can. A leader assigns tasks to team members based on their unique skills and strengths. They ask for feedback, set clear expectations and deadlines, and encourage their team members to come to them with questions or concerns. A leader trusts their team to handle the tasks assigned.


InvestmentZen - boss vs leader

4. Leaders Know When to Break the Rules

Han Chang, InvestmentZen

Sometimes you need to be a boss, and sometimes you need to be a leader. Sometimes, people make a great boss but a terrible leader (and vice versa).

A boss is someone your staff reports to. He or she typically has a clear set of guidelines of what’s required of employees and/or what constitutes their success. For this reason, a boss typically is not successful if they have to work outside of set parameters, usually set by a leader.

A leader helps his or her employees grow with the hopes that, at some point, they might even be more capable than they are someday. A leader understands when the rules need to be broken, but breaks them for the right reasons: growth, advancement, etc.

In a project situation, a boss might delegate who does what. A leader understands why people have been tasked with their individual roles and not only helps them accomplish them but also grow so that they may take on more challenging work in the future.

A leader is like an alpha wolf ensuring the overall success and wellbeing of the pack. It’s not uncommon to see the alpha in the back of the pack, making sure no wolf is left behind.


COS Sales - boss vs leader

5. Leaders Make Their Staff Want to Work for Them

Richard Kao, COS Sales

Any leader can be a boss, but not all bosses can be leaders. It’s the way you view your role within a company that sets the two part. Lots of bosses like to rule their office with fear. Their staff will perform well, but only because they’re too scared not to! However, you shouldn’t run your office the same way Cersei Lannister runs Westeros. Sure, fear does make people get the job done, but it certainly doesn’t make them want to work hard for you. Instead, you create a culture of people wanting to get away from you, which isn’t good for workforce turnover.

A leader will instead be surrounded by staff of whom they’ve earned respect from. They motivate their team to work hard via positive reinforcement and working with them, not above them. People want to work hard for leaders, and will be far more likely to push above and beyond for them too.

Don’t be a Cersei Lannister. Be a Jon Snow.


The Alternative Board - boss vs leader

6. Leaders Create New Leaders

David Scarola, The Alternative Board

While it may seem counter intuitive, a great leader doesn’t direct a group of followers. Instead, a great leader turns his or her followers into leaders of their own domain. A leader’s job is to establish a vision and communicate it to employees in an inspiring way.

While a leader’s most important function is to inspire action, a boss’s primary goal is to accomplish goals. The boss’s responsibility is to translate the leader’s vision into actionable and measurable steps employees can take to reach long term company goals.


Laura Handrick - boss vs leader

7. Leaders are Creative with Motivating Employees

Laura Handrick, HR, Fit Small Business

Leaders know how to motivate their employees with words and actions — without necessarily putting a dent in the company budget. They understand that employees may appreciate non-monetary tokens and simple recognition of a job well done. More often than not, bosses tend to associate employee performance with monetary value. As in, “I pay you to do a job, so do it!” This rigid view limits potential within the organization, and de-motivates staff, which eventually results in lost opportunities to the company’s bottom line.

For those having trouble moving from boss to leader, I recommend hiring a business coach.


Yvette La-Garde -boss vs leader

8. Leaders Invest Time in their Team

Yvette La-Garde, VitaMedica

Leaders invest time in their team. Unfortunately, it is common these days for a boss to choose favorites. Leaders, however, treat everyone equally, investing time and effort into molding their employees. This not only will help the team complete projects, but will also support the growth of individual careers.

A good leader knows when to be a typical “boss” and when to play a supporting role. This is important for any small business because leadership has a direct impact on overall revenue and company success. According to a Forbes study, extraordinary leaders have the potential to more than double a company’s profit!


Natalie Athanasiadis - boss vs leader

9. Leaders Nurture a Team’s Passion

Natalie Athanasiadis, Digital Visibility Group

One of the most important difference between a boss and a leader is that leaders amplify and nurture the enthusiasm of their team members. Passion outplays skills each and every time in my experience, and passion leads to better productivity which can in turn mean more profits. Bosses can have the most skilled team members and still not achieve as much as a leader can with enthusiastic and committed team members.


FitSmall Business - boss vs leader

10. Leaders Develop Progressive Discipline Policies that Employees Trust

When handling behavior and performance issues, leaders believe that the best process is one that employees can completely trust to be fair. Where a leader looks forward to mentoring and training, bosses often focus the results on penalties and sanctions. Bosses tend to view disciplinary policies as a disadvantage instead of an opportunity. A leader knows how to help employees improve their performance with clear expectations that employees understand and respect.


Aaron Norris - boss vs leader

11. Leaders Transact in “Psychic” Dollars

Aaron Norris, The Norris Group

Someone is typically called a boss because they control the purse strings. They transact in earned dollars and have captured your time and talent because you work for them. A leader, on the other hand, is someone that transacts mostly in psychic dollars. They may or may not control earned dollars, but at the end of the day, you’re willing and excited to follow their lead because they know how to rally and excite a team. You believe in the mission, see the vision, and this leader is able to inspire you and others to build something together.


Robin Salter-boss vs leader

12. Leaders Work to Earn Authority

Robin Salter, Kwipped

Bosses are handed assumed authority to tell those they manage what is expected of them, while leaders earn authority by inspiring others to do more than is expected of them. A boss is not necessarily a leader, and a leader is not necessarily a boss. However, leaders typically do eventually find their way to boss status, while bosses lacking leadership rarely become effective leaders. So here’s the tip: whether through action, or motivational words, or just offering up some positive feedback, determine some key ways to inspire others to be the best they can be. Once you accomplish this, you will be seen and treated as a leader.


Daniel Duty-boss vs leader

13. Leaders Build High Performing Teams

Daniel Duty, Conlego

Leaders create teams that the best and brightest want to be a part of by setting a compelling vision and letting their team members be creative and innovative in achieving that vision. Leaders let their team take calculated risks to experiment with new ideas, letting them fail with support on occasion in order to learn. Leaders spend an inordinate amount of time coaching their teams, helping them learn and grow. Leaders are empathetic to the team’s concerns and will defend them, yet challenge them to figure things out. Leaders give credit to their teams and take little to none for themselves. As a result, leaders have teams that outperform other teams and are immensely loyal.

Bosses, on the other hand, tend to be the opposite of the traits seen in leaders. They give orders and require that work be done in a predetermined way. They can micro-manage and have little concern for the team’s well being or the growth of individuals. It tends to be more about “them”. As such, teams reporting to bosses feel less empowered, and their creativity and output diminishes.


FitSmall Business - boss vs leader

14. Leaders Know the 4 Main Functions of a Manager

Leaders are effective because they know the 4 main functions of a manager:

  • Training Your Team
  • Organizing Your Team
  • Communication
  • Motivating Your Team

If you’re missing one of these four pieces, then you can’t be an effective leader. Once these four pieces come together, leaders can establish parameters that align these functions to company vision and goals, leading to employee self management. Bosses on the other hand, base their actions on pre-existing parameters and are usually results oriented rather than work driven.


Christine Mann-boss vs leader

15. Leaders Create Followership

Christine Mann, Mann Consulting, LLC

A boss manages day to day work and guides your activities, but, in my mind, a leader is significantly different. Leaders take their team with them, even to places they may have never considered going to on their own. They also create followership, have the ability to set a vision, are consistent and fair in their implementation of company rules, and are aware of their leadership strengths and weaknesses. Leaders lead the work as opposed to letting work lead them.

The key to good delegation is this: It is imperative that you assess the readiness of the person you are delegating to. Ask the right questions. Do they need help with the first few steps? Are they a self-starter and can just go? Are they new to the task?

Knowing this upfront is critical. Depending on the answer, you can provide supportive leadership, especially for those who are new to a task. Ask and clarify the goal, ask them if they understand, even ask what their first 5 or 6 steps may be towards meeting the goal. If they are on target, let them go but stay close if needed. If they are off, course correct upfront and avoid a deliverable that either never arrives or comes in not meeting expectations.


DevelopIntelligence-boss vs leader

16. Leaders Don’t Provide All the Answers

Jana Tulloch, DevelopIntelligence

A leader is supportive and encouraging, and is committed to your learning and development; they don’t provide answers all the time but rather want you to try to figure it out yourself, recognizing that we learn from our mistakes and gain confidence through our accomplishments. Bosses often point out your weaknesses and tell you what you did wrong, but often not how to correct it. While leaders will take the time to learn about you and what you can bring to the company, bosses are not often interested in your development as an individual but are more focused on that tasks that need to be done.

Leaders help you become a better employee and engage you in the tasks at hand; they will often include you in the decision-making process, and be transparent in their communication and why things need to be done. Bosses tend to be less inclusive, feel they don’t need to tell you why they make the decisions they do, and expect only for you to follow their direction.


elMejorTrato.com-boss vs leader

17. Leaders Know How to Do the Job On Their Own

Eng. Rennella, Cristian, elMejorTrato.com

In our company, when we hire managers, the most important thing is to verify if they’ve done the job of the people who’ll be reporting to them. The reason for this is because we are looking for leaders, not bosses. A leader is the one who knows how to do the task with his or her own hands and teaches you how to do it. It gives you the example to follow.

A boss, on the other hand, only tells you what the final goal is and remains waiting for results without being able to collaborate with you. As Larry Page, founder of Google, once said: “Technical people should not be led by someone who is not technical.”

If you want your startup to grow, surround yourself with leaders.


Adam Stoker-boss vs leader

18. Leaders Share the Responsibility of Decision Making

Adam Stoker, Relic Agency

A boss wants things done his/her way and doesn’t really care about the opinions or expertise of his/her team. A leader will involve the team in decision making, hear out their thoughts and opinions, and make decisions that allow the team as a whole to grow and improve. When we re-branded the company, my original instinct was to go another direction with the brand. As a team, we brainstormed ideas and finally landed on Relic together. I was thrilled that I hadn’t just made the decision and moved forward. We ended up with a much better brand and had a great growth experience together as a team.


Andrew Thompson-boss vs leader

19. Leaders Inspire Creative Thought

Andrew Thompson, PEAK Performance Professionals

A primary difference between a boss and a leader is inspiration. To be a boss means to manage and to hold your team accountable for their actions. Bosses that immerse themselves in this style of managementat best would receive moderate expectations from their team. This can create a mundane culture which can discourage independent thought, creativity and ambition – elements that create a powerful work environment and make your company more competitive in the marketplace.

To be a leader means to inspire creativity. Effective leaders don’t just track their employees’ productivity; they encourage independent thought, creativity and ambition. Most importantly, they serve. Some of the best companies have leaders whose primary function is to serve their team – help them with whatever they need to overcome their challenges and succeed at the team level. Eventually, this also becomes an inspiration for team members to serve others. If your team succeeds, then your company succeeds.


Body Gears-boss vs leader

20. Leaders Don’t Alienate Themselves From Their Team

April Oury, Body Gears

“You’re so mean.” I used to hear this all the time, and I was. I was expecting the right things but going at it completely wrong. Instead of supporting and encouraging my staff, I berated (publicly) and pointed out faults that needed correction in embarrassing ways. My thought was that I was going to help people remember what not to do by pointing it out as it happened. What ended up happening was alienating a lot of great staff with great ideas who were afraid to make mistakes at work.

As a leader, I now try to forge ahead with enthusiasm, support, and being the example of what I expect others to do. Not perfect, but leading. Instead of humiliating staff into better behavior, I’ve taken a lot of cues from trying to raise my daughters. If I wouldn’t speak to my kids” that way”, why would I want my staff to be subject to it?


Roger Longden-boss vs leader

21. Leaders Can Effectively Switch Between “Boss Mode” & “Leader Mode”

Roger Longden, There be Giants

The truth is, in a small business, you need to be both. However, knowing which hat to wear at the right time is the key to success. In boss mode, you’ll be focused on delivering the plan, tracking the numbers and making sure that all is on track as it should be. In leader mode, you’ll be looking at the bigger picture and selling it to your team so they share your vision and give you 100% commitment. You’ll have a natural preference to one or the other – if you like detail then you’re likely to be more boss than leader, so working on your leader skills and recognizing when to switch will make you more effective.


Executive Development Associates, Inc.-boss vs leader

22. Leaders Guide the Team to Accomplish Company Goals

Bonnie Hagemann, Executive Development Associates, Inc.

A boss is command and control. They give you a dollar and tell you how to spend it and then ask if you spent it that way. A leader establishes a vision, empowers employees to make decisions to achieve the vision, ensures that they have the information and the training needed to make good decisions, and then encourages them to be their best. The leader’s job is then to check for alignment with the organization’s vision and values, to make sure the employees are making good decisions and if not working to understand why. If the employee can’t get to the place where he/she can be successful after the leader has done his/her part then the leader’s job is to help that person move on to a place where they can be successful and get the right people in the right seats.


GMR Web Team-boss vs leader

23. Leaders Never Micromanage

Ajay Prasad, GMR Web Team

Another important quality that a leader must have is that they don’t micromanage. Micromanaging is one of the worst possible traits that a leader can have. Micromanaging bosses are annoying, pushy, and unpleasant. This also implies a distrust within the company, and that is something you never want. Trust in your team that you hired and know that they will do their job well. And if they do make mistakes (which everybody does), then they can learn from it and become better.


Art Barter-boss vs leader

24. Leaders are the Best Team Players

Art Barter, Servant Leadership Institute

In theory, a boss and a leader shouldn’t be different. A good boss is a good leader. Good leaders are proactive, not reactive, and they are constantly finding creative ways to boost team morale and performance. Leaders are people who have influence because of their humility and attitude, not because they have been promoted to a supervisory position. Essentially, good leaders aren’t “bosses” to their teams — they are more like supportive and admirable teammates.


TINYpulse-boss vs leader

25. Leaders Understand the Value of Employee Engagement

Tracy Nguyen, TINYpulse

Leaders recognize the importance of continuously engaging employees. Employee engagement, which is a key measure to assess the culture and well-being of a company, is the responsibility of leaders. In order to measure the engagement level of the employee, companies use a variety of tools including sentiment analysis, pulse surveys, engagement surveys, and opinion polls. These tools allow leaders to decide on the best actions needed to keep employee engagement at a healthy level, which generally means regular coaching, problem fixing when necessary, and keeping the channels of communication open.