A Boss or A Leader?

Empowering Culture

Today I was working with a group of well seasoned managers from the same team who wanted to focus on empowerment and developing a more empowering culture in their team.

We only had a 2 hour slot, which at first I thought “How do I fit empowerment into 2 hours?”, and came very close to writing a PowerPoint presentation to dull their brains on empowerment. Instead I thought we would bring to life what empowerment really means…

I’m not going to go into the techniques we used at this juncture, as it would take 2 hours to explain them!  The interesting part was the discussions that these techniques kicked off for the team at large…


The first area of interaction was what the team associated with empowerment… (these are their own words, ranked by their how favourable they were for the team).

  • Sharing
  • Trusted
  • Belief in my abilities
  • Praise
  • Knowing I’m adding value

Boss or Leader

The second big interaction was their own awareness of what empowerment meant for them as a senior team. What the team generated by themselves was the difference between being a boss and being a leader, and that previously they had assumed one was a subset of the other.

But the exercises & techniques highlighted to them a very distinct difference…

Here’s some of their remarks about being a boss…

  • A boss tells people what to do
  • A boss blames other people
  • A boss makes excuses
  • A boss rarely listens to your point of view
  • A boss only looks after his own interests
  • A boss doesn’t respect your opinion
  • A boss places you in a box and that’s all you can do
  • A boss only wants to hear “yes” and say “no”

Here’s some of their remarks about what they associated with an leader who empowered their team:

  • A leader appreciates your input
  • A leader encourages you
  • A leader appreciates you for who you are, not what you have done
  • A leader hears what you say and acknowledges to you that they have heard what you have said
  • A leader explores the possible
  • A leader adds to the conversation
  • A leader inspires
  • A leader joins in
  • A leader respects my opinion even if they disagree with it
  • A leader will give my idea the chance to survive, and nurture it into something bigger than I had initially hoped
  • A leader helps me connects the dots
  • A leader helps.
  • A leader embraces mistakes and helps you overcome those mistakes


I found this remarkable and an unintended gift for the team and for myself.  It really struck a chord with the team.  It made me think if I am a boss or a leader, and how I can become a better leader.

How could you become a better leader?

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