Agency Work & Wellbeing

Anyone can be a boss but it takes skill to be a true leader

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By Fe Husaint | Creative and global brand head

April 5, 2022 | 7 min read

Being a leader is tough, but Fe Husaint, the creative and global brand head at Green Park Content, says trust, empathy, and a genuine connection can take one quite far.

As we slowly move into the new normal with the pandemic, I am convinced that managers should strive to be true leaders rather than bosses now more than ever.

It might be challenging to decipher the difference at times, as both hold positions of power and are responsible for the team’s performance. But their approach couldn’t be more different.

leaders

Leaders are also much more open to feedback from their subordinates / Pixabay

To become a good leader, aim to influence, inspire and mentor your team members. But to be a true leader, you need first to understand the difference between a boss and a leader. The main contrasts that I can see are:

  • Bosses dictate; leaders communicate
  • Bosses criticize; leaders influence
  • Bosses assign tasks; leaders encourage autonomy
  • Bosses may put you down; leaders lift you up

As you might know, bosses, value compliance and keep a top-down communication approach. With a boss, the relationship is typically strictly professional, and there may be a palpable distance emotionally between boss and employee. Fear is often an emotion that comes to mind when you hear the word “boss,” as they command authority and rarely solicit feedback.

On the other hand, leaders emphasized trust and respect. They make an effort to get to know their team members and listen to their aspirations. Instead of forcing compliance, they inspire their team to contribute to the bigger picture. Leaders are also much more open to feedback from their subordinates and strive to improve through others’ input.

Don’t get me wrong - as a manager, I do understand the need for professional boundaries. And I don’t believe that all your employees should be your best friends. But I don’t think that a boss’s role should be restricted to waving their fists and yelling about deadlines and KPIs without any concern for what’s happening in an employee’s personal life.

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I also firmly believe bosses shouldn’t be so emotionally distant in modern, forward-thinking workplaces. Now that more companies have tried and tested remote work setups, I can see the significance of developing trust in your team members.

Over the years, I have learned the immeasurable value of being a leader people want to follow and do their best work for. Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. I believe, like many skills, good leadership skills need to be nurtured over time. So I put in the time to build these skills. I would like to share what I’ve learned over the years here.

Three things you can do to be a leader who people choose to follow:

Emphasize trust and respect over fear so you can influence your team

With the new normal and employees moving to hybrid working structures, bosses might be compelled to micromanage their remote team. Be mindful of your management style and set a structure that favors an output-based system. Of course, team members must also earn that trust by showing proof of productivity and contribution to results before their leader can give them more freedom.

This is also where respect comes in. A leader who values respecting their employees' time, abilities, and situation is someone that their team will incredibly appreciate in the long run. I understand this might be tricky when working from home, where lines are blurred. Still, we can have an honest conversation and be flexible in working hours (i.e. work late, start late, get off in lieu, etc.). The thing is, life happens. Kids need to be picked up, doctor's appointments happen, and urgent errands need to be run. As long as the work gets done, leaders need to be flexible to integrate work-life.

This type of culture breeds respect and empathy and only results in a stronger, more supportive team.

Show empathy by being a mentor and genuinely listening

Having the capacity to extend understanding when your team members are going through challenges, instead of demanding more from them during a difficult time, is a mark of a good leader.

Instead of asking why a particular task isn't done, having a one-on-one discussion and reading between the lines is crucial to find out what is happening. A family member may be unwell, or they could be going through personal issues. Perhaps the discussion could also unearth that the brief wasn't clear in the first place. If a particular team member is a high performer, it's only natural that they want to do their best work but is deterred by something bigger.

Empathy comes naturally when you are genuinely interested in what your team members are passionate about. You don’t have to be their best friend. But actively listening to what they are interested in will put you in a better position to get to know their strengths and ambitions, enabling you to guide them better.

Establish a genuine connection by getting to know your team better so you can inspire them.

Fellow leaders, let us all make a greater effort to connect with our employees, especially when most are still working remotely. Getting to know your employees is never a waste of time - it shows that you care and will help you draw the best out of them and propel them to greater heights.

At Green Park Content, we have regular catch-ups like monthly virtual lunches, get-togethers, and other activities like Fit O'Clock to help boost employee morale. These are effective in keeping the leader-team connection strong and building a strong culture.

With these efforts, you can watch your emotional investment in an employee pay off. They'll also be inspired to work harder for the business.

I look forward to seeing more trust, respect, empathy, and genuine connection from our leaders in the workplace. I dream of seeing more organizations value leaders rather than bosses because I believe that empowering our employees in this manner will cause a significant, uplifting improvement in every industry. For my part, I will keep striving to be a better leader every day.

Fe Husaint is the creative and global brand head at Green Park Content

Agency Work & Wellbeing

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