16 Jun 2018 18:03 IST

Be a boss to become a leader

Being a boss is the first step to becoming a leader

In my previous article , I had written about how one shouldn’t try to outguess their bosses for a variety of reasons. Continuing with the same thought, I would like to touch upon an important aspect of a person’s career — becoming a boss.

A senior armed forces personnel was once talking about ‘leadership’ and ‘leading people’. He shared the example of an interesting exercise that they used, to drive home the point that being a boss is the first step to becoming a leader.

The exercise required officers-in-training to move a pile of equipment from point A to point B. The caveat was that the officers themselves shouldn’t move the pile — they had to complete this task only through delegation. If any of them even so much as touched the equipment, they were disqualified from the exercise.

The main aim of this was to understand the importance of planning and honing the skill of giving clear, proper and timely instructions. Although this sounds quite simple, it is not. Therein lies the challenge of making others do something.

A management programme equips students with a lot of information and to some extent, knowledge about the various facets of management. However, very few teach the art of delegation, of making others do something to achieve a larger objective. In a manner of speaking, this skill gap is one of the main reasons why many management graduates tend to think poorly of their bosses, as they assume that they can do a better job.

It is time for people to understand that being a boss is an important skill. It calls for the following key aspects:

~ Planning every little component of the task as well as anticipating potential bottlenecks and issues.

~ Communicating the tasks to team members clearly and monitoring them.

~ Giving guidance when required.

Motivation: the next step

Leadership is the next step; that is, when a person knows all of the above points and is able to motivate and energise his/her team. Leaders are powerful communicators who create a strong sense of shared ownership in the group. Having said that, leadership is not required in every situation and context. In many functional scenarios, being a good boss is enough.

That brings me to the point of a good vs. bad boss. A person who can get a task completed through others, with a strong people orientation is usually perceived to be a good boss. A bad boss one who is the opposite. However, organisations usually look for effective and efficient bosses. That tends to take priority over the good vs. bad orientation. This is a detailed topic, which I will touch upon in subsequent article.

For now, start by learning how to be a boss and getting others to complete tasks. Essentially, managerial skill boils down to being able to do this. Leadership can be the next step in your personal growth.