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Should the function of a good leader be focused on being 'a boss' or being 'a guide' for the team?

Leadership vs management


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Shannon Nealey

3 years ago | 2 min read

The focus of a good leader should be to lead.

Good leaders set an example. They practice what they preach. Leaders say, “This is what needs to be done; let’s get it done,” and work side by side in the trenches with their team.

Bosses sit from on high and give orders from afar. Bosses say, “This is what needs to be done, so go do it.”

Leaders will step up and do a job, while bosses will delegate. Leaders believe there is no job duty beneath them and that says a lot about how leaders view those who is assigned to perform those job duties, especially if they are licensed, certified or otherwise qualified to do so.

Bosses will come upon a job that needs to be done and spend—no, waste—precious time finding someone to do a job they are more than qualified and capable of doing but consider to be beneath them to do.

I work in nursing homes. I’ve worked in nursing homes through agencies. I’ve worked with administrators and managers who will let a resident lie in soaked and soiled garments before getting them cleaned up. I’ve worked with administrators who came on the floor to help out. I remember one agency assignment I had, I worked with an aide who was good at his job. I remember having a conversation with this man and then being surprised to learn that he was the Director of Nursing.

The head of the nursing department was working on the floor as an aide. This was something I rarely ever witnessed. At any of my facility jobs, none of the managers ever came to the floor to help, with one exception. The most they would do was pass trays, pass meds or do paperwork. Those managers would let shifts run short or unstaffed and threaten termination to get people to come to work before they would come in to help out.

But this man, who ran the nursing department, didn’t see aide work as being beneath him. He didn’t frown on working the med cart or passing trays or taking out the trash or cleaning up messes of any kind.

Because of his style of leadership, turnover at that facility was low. I was there to fill in for an employee on medical leave. If not for my agency contract, I would have applied for a position there.

But at my facility job, the Director of Nursing was a boss, nothing more. He would call in agency or mandate people to work overtime before he would come on the floor to help. We were threatened with being reported to the licensing board for refusing to come to work or to stay late. Needless to say, people flew out the door of that place to get away from him.

Management and leadership style will determine success with the team. A bad manager can take a good team and destroy it, driving the talented people to leave and the rest to lose motivation. A bad manager leads with fear. A bad manager punishes team members for speaking up, for standing up for themselves, for correcting management. A boss thinks they are always right, no matter what and shuts down team members and threatens their jobs.

The question is, do you want a leader or a boss?

I would never want to work for a boss. I would rather work for a leader.

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Shannon Nealey


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