Generally speaking, there are two types of bosses: there are “managers” and then there are “leaders”.
A manager manages, typically burdened by all manner of KPIs they’ll do and say anything to satisfy.
A leader, on the other hand, motivates with excellent communication and people skills, treating their charges like colleagues, not flunkies who must follow commands whenever they’re told.
There is actually a huge difference between a manager and a leader. This is why it exasperates me to no end with how pervasive the term “leader” has become in the workplace.
I’ve worked in both the private and public sectors for more than two decades now, and I’ve experienced the good, the bad and, just recently, the totally messed up. My first manager was a diminutive (maybe 5’3″ or 5’4″) fellow with an ego as large as Jupiter. When his own managers annoyed him instead of taking it out on his staff, he would stand up on his desk and scream:
“How am I expected to fly like an eagle when I’m surrounded by these turkeys?”
Yes, it’s kooky, but this experience was invaluable to me because I realized that a great leader never takes themselves too seriously; they are so comfortable in their own skin they don’t need to bully people under them to feel important.
And speaking of bullies, there’s more than one type. There’s the loud, scene-stealing, finger-jabbing kind. In my experience, there are also passive aggressive types of bosses. You’re ignored, dismissed, undervalued, undermined and discriminated against all with a tremendous sleight of hand and puppy dog eyes. The world barely notices, but you do. And often.
Here are four types of bosses, managers, and leaders I’ve encountered. Maybe you’ve met a few of these beauties in previous organizations. Maybe you work with one right now, or maybe you are one.
The Indiana Jones
Strong, forceful and confident, this sort of leader isn’t the effusive type. It’s about big objectives and high productivity. But the heart beats strong and a dry, benevolent wit always saves the day — and staff morale. Think Richard Branson with a passion for lost arks.
The Miranda Priestly
This is your typical egomaniac manager. Nothing is ever their fault. They enjoy on watching you flounder, set nearly impossible deadlines then change their minds after you’ve stayed in the office overnight just to get it done. They mess with your head and secretly revel at watching you fall at every impossibly high hurdle they fling in your path. On a good day, you’ll be ignored.
The Public Servant
Shoehorned into leadership roles they’re often ill-equipped to handle, the tragic Public Servant is utterly captivated by process and policy. They’ve fetishized the bureaucracy that binds them so much, they don’t even try to shake themselves free anymore. The Public Servant forever chases their tails as they zip through the 9-5 answering the demands of their own dysfunctional managers.
The Jules Ostin
Anne Hathaway played a character named Jules Ostin in The Intern. This type of leader lives and breathes honesty and class. They’re a combination of firm but fair, and is all about bringing out the best in their people regardless of background, experience, or seniority.
Whether your manager is a sociopath or a saint, they need to recognise this: People are businesses’ most important resource, and they should be treated as such. Managing people is a privilege, not a right.
If you are at the mercy of a (mis)manager, firstly, I truly feel for you, secondly, please know that unless your boss takes a gargantuan dose of self-awareness soon, they’re unlikely to change. So if you can, consider looking for another place to work (tip: here’s how you can land your dream job).
To all the “managers” currently slashing and burning their way through workplaces and self-esteems around the world, do us all a favor and run to the nearest bathroom in your building and take a good, long look at yourself in the mirror. And ask: would you want to be the boss of YOU?