How to Become a True Leader of People

How to Become a True Leader of People

The meme below has been circulating on the internet for a while now and for good reason. In a single image, it illustrates the stark contrast between a boss and a leader.

leader vs. boss meme

The “boss” will look familiar to most people. Like a general in the army, a boss maintains order, doles out instructions, and punishes poor performance. A boss’ relationship with their people is colder; their staff function only out of a sense of duty, following the commands of someone else with more power.

But thanks to Millennials and their need for professional development and authentic relationships, the boss approach to management is slowly dying. In offices around the world, bosses are being replaced by leaders.

Leaders take a my-door-is-always-open to teach, help, guide, and learn approach to management. Being a leader is not about authority, but instead about support, empathy, and maybe even vulnerability. Mistakes and even failure are used as catalysts to teach and learn, staff receive consistent coaching and mentoring ala intentional feedback from their superiors on how they can improve, and workplace relationships are personal and genuine.

The difference between a boss and a leader is crucial. Being a boss may make some feel important, but young talent responds quickly by walking out of the door or giving only the minimal effort required to appease the boss in charge. Both are costly to organizations.

More motivated young talent, greater respect from colleagues, and improved performance for everyone comes with real leadership. I am sure that all sounds great. But how do you actually make the transition from being a boss to a leader?

Making the Transition from Boss to Leader

One of the most important things that we focus on in our workshops at launchbox is teaching people how to become their best self, focused on impacting others, or in other words, an awesome leader that everyone wants to work with. This is an intensive learning process, but there are a few things you can do right now to start making the transition yourself.

Become Self Aware and Realize Authoritarian Management is Temporary

In terms of management style, being an authoritarian hard-ass is the easy way out. It is all emotion, no thought, and it doesn’t require you to come up with any actual solutions or impact.

And that is why the leaders who are most effective, not just with Millennials but as managers in general, present themselves as supportive mentors and coaches to their younger staff instead.

Rather than yell, a leader walks their people through their mistakes, identifies ways they can improve, and helps support others while they try to turn their advice into tools for others’ actions. These are not moments for the leader to exercise power, they are teaching, learning and growing opportunities.

This approach is critical when working with Millennials. Millennials enter the workforce lacking key professional skills, but they are also incredibly eager to learn. The best leaders use that eagerness to their advantage, coaching and mentoring their young talent at every opportunity.

Provide Constant Feedback

The days of solely relying on a yearly performance review are over. In fact, even increasing to quarterly reviews will leave your younger talent feeling forgotten. To truly satisfy their need for feedback, leaders should be providing their Millennials feedback, on average, about once per day/month depending what is needed.  We call it “on-demand.”

That may sound like a lot, but keep in mind, Millennials are also not expecting full-blown official performance review meetings either, they just want I got your back “drive-bys” pardon the politically incorrect reference.

Instead, Millennials want regular, flash-feedback on their performance so they can be sure they are always working towards improving as professionals and are aligned with their leaders. Whether it is a 10-minute exchange on Slack or a cup of coffee on Monday morning, Millennials don’t need an official meeting. They just want to pick the brain of their leader to understand how they can improve and re-establish that both parties are humans trying to do the best job they can. And attain madass skills.

Inspire Through Authenticity

Why are Millennials more interested in what influencers on Instagram are wearing than what massive corporation is pushing via million dollar ad campaigns?

The answer is authenticity.

And authenticity is as critical for effectively leading Millennials as it is for getting them to buy your product.

Authentic leaders create real relationships with their staff. They share their personal story and they listen to the stories of their people. They develop relationships that go beyond the workplace. And they aren’t above letting their people know they appreciate their hard work.

The result is that authentic leaders and their followers begin to understand each other as people with a genuine connection. Their staff wants to do a good job not out of a sense of duty, but because they care about how their actions affect their colleagues and leaders. It becomes about helping people and working together to achieve goals as a team or contribution. And that intrinsic motivation is how you truly get the best out of people.

Becoming a true leader and leaving the boss behind is no easy task: it demands far higher emotional IQ, more depth of thought, learning, vulnerability, other focused disciplines, and more daily effort than being an authoritarian boss. However, those who can achieve the status of a true leader reap benefits that make all the extra effort worth it.