I’ll admit it. Growing up I was obsessed with the show Who’s the Boss?
Nearly 30 years later, I can own up to my own vulnerability that I, too, once wanted to be the boss. Although, that show (or many others for that matter), didn’t provide any real direction on what it actually meant to be “the boss.” So, I had to set out on a path to learn through experience, guidance, research, success, and at times falling flat on my face, to understand the notion of what a boss is.
Come to find out, a boss is truly a leader. If you look up the word boss in Merriam-Websiter online it states:
1. a : a protuberant part or body
b : a raised ornamentation : STUD
c : an ornamental projecting block used in architecture
2 a soft pad used in ceramics and glassmaking
3 the hub of a propeller
1 to ornament with bosses : EMBOSS
2 to treat (as the surface of porcelain) with a boss
1 a person who exercises control or authorityb; specifically : one who directs or supervises workers
2 a politician who controls votes in a party organization or dictates appointments or legislative measures
It takes eight definitions to get to something that might be considered a “boss” in the workplace and even this it states simply that this person exercises control or authority. These are power-trip words and in today’s workforce, most people would likely agree they promote fear and disengagement. Right after, it defines a boss as a politician who controls and dictates. To me, that doesn’t sound like an appealing leader I want to follow.
When I conduct the same word search of leader in Merriam-Webster online I see, this definition:
1: something that leads: as
a : a primary or terminal shoot of a plant
b : TENDON, SINEW
c plural : dots or hyphens (as in an index) used to lead the eye horizontally : ELLIPSIS 2
d: chiefly British : a newspaper editorial
e :(1) : something for guiding fish into a trap (2) : a short length of material for attaching the end of a fishing line to a lure or hook
f : LOSS LEADER
g : something that ranks first
h : a blank section at the beginning or end of a reel of film or recorded tape
2: a person who leads: as
a : GUIDE, CONDUCTOR
b(1) : a person who directs a military force or unit (2) : a person who has commanding authority or influence
c(1) : the principal officer of a British political party (2) : a party member chosen activities in a legislative body (3) : such a party member presiding over the whole legislative body when the party constitutes a majority
d(1) : CONDUCTOR c (2) : a first or principal performer of a group
While it still takes eight definitions to get to something we can relate to the workplace, we can now see words that we can relate behaviors to – guide, conductor, and influence.
In this article from Inc.com titled 7 Unusual Things Great Bosses Do (which ironically has “BOSS” in the title and immediately refers to the importance of LEADERSHIP traits over those of “BOSSES” ), the ways in which great leaders give is beautifully articulated: a glimpse of vulnerability, a nudge, unexpected attention, employees a break, a peek inside, an undeserved compliment, and a hat rack to their employees (read the article, you’ll understand!). It’s a concise article, which explains how we can delight our internal customers, our employees. It’s certainly a link between the very awkward gap in definition between BOSS and LEADER.