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Be a Leader—Not a Boss
By Ivan D. Butts
NAPS National President
One of the most indelible memories of my career as a supervisor and manager in the Postal Service was how I engaged with the employees assigned to me. As I’ve mentioned in a previous column, while working as a 204 (b), the general foreman for whom I worked was mentoring me.
A statement he made to me was so profound, it forever changed how I would manage. “Make them mad, hey work harder,” he told me. At that moment, I realized I did not want to be that style of manager.
I later would understand there are two, distinct managerial styles: that of the boss and that of a leader. Everyone reading this can point to some manager for whom they worked as either the boss or the leader. In a perfect world, we would have worked for more leaders, but that may not be the reality.
That is because the boss management style does not require conscious thought in its execution. This is not to say one style is right and the other is wrong, just that one is easier to achieve, while the other requires effort.
We all have worked for a manager from whom you hear, “It’s my way or the highway” and “Do it because I said so.” These statements are intended to drive an employee to reach a goal by the implied fear of “or else.”
This management model is a product of the boss mentality and may have temporary effects on success. However, to have a sustainable effect on the workplace and employees, more impactful managers employ a leader mentality to unite employees to achieve common goals.
The leader mentality looks to collaborate with employees and allow their voices to be heard. The leader values employees in the process, who then buy into whatever the task as a result of having their voice heard. The leader looks to coach, develop and mentor.
The leader generates enthusiasm in the team. Leaders speak in “we” statements. Leaders look to fix breakdowns and will show employees how it is done. Leaders have no problem giving credit and helping develop people along the way.
The boss mentality looks to drive employees and is dependent on authority over people and inspiring fear in others to do their will. The boss mentality speaks with “I” and “me” statements.
The boss mentality looks to blame someone for a breakdown. The boss commands and uses people, but takes credit for their efforts. The boss mentality gets behind people and orders “go,” while the leader mentality helps bear the load and says, “Let’s go!”
I have strived to display the characteristics of a leader every step of the way in my postal and NAPS duties and assignments. I find more value in any process when we all feel valued, which is what leaders do—they value the views of others.
I never have wanted to have the boss label placed on me. If my time with you only can be summed up as the type of boss I was, I have failed you and me.
One of the most incredible statements ever made to me came from one of my employees, a former Marine. He told me, “I’d follow you into war.” That is the product of the leader mentality.
In solidarity …
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