Too Many Bosses, Not Enough Leaders

As an industry, we need to move away from breeding bosses and learn to nurture and grow leaders.

I love being part of the advertising industry. I love the creativity, the passion, the innovation -- and most importantly, the people.

Throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to observe many different styles of people and specifically, how people manage. Some were loud and crazy, some were more quiet and introverted, and others were simply good people. All of them succeed on some level, in some way, and I have taken notes while observing them.

Over time, I have come to realize that in management, anyone can be a boss, but only a few are true leaders.

Let me explain.

Bosses are very different than leaders. Bosses tend to have a style that is about command and control. They micromanage. They wordsmith. They do things just because 'they can.' They tend to lead with fear rather than encouragement. They are, just like the word, 'bossy.'

Bosses sometimes disguise themselves as leaders, but inevitably they get found out when their egos take over and they choose themselves to the detriment of an agency or organization. Bosses fundamentally believe that being in charge is the same as being a leader -- but it's not.

We all know leaders outside our industry, such as Howard Schultz, Sheryl Sandberg and Tony Hsieh. And there have been many in the advertising industry who have shown their amazing leadership openly and sometimes heartbreakingly.

Leaders have one key difference from the bosses that are at their heels: they have a humanity and humility that everyone around them can relate to and be inspired by. Leaders have an empathy that comes through because they understand their role is not to do everything themselves, but to inspire people to do it better than even they dreamt it could be. Leaders lead... they don't boss.

As an industry, we need to move away from breeding bosses and learn to nurture and grow leaders. It's not about entitlement or 'that's mine, this is yours' turf wars; it's about breaking down the hierarchy and the walls and, forgive me, the bullshit that's holding all of us back from being real leaders.

Let's become an industry of leaders again. We can develop leaders who will share the credit. Empathetic leaders who will listen. Generous leaders who will teach. Accessible leaders who will motivate. Courageous leaders who will ask why. And collaborative leaders who will make us all better.

Things I'm personally working on to grow as a leader instead of a boss:

  • Lead by example. Hold myself up to the same standards as I do everyone else.
  • Be curious. Act like a student of our business.
  • Don't impose values on people that you yourself don't embrace
  • Be generous. With your time and with your feedback.
  • Empower your leaders to do their best work.

Once we start nurturing and recognizing this type of leadership in our organizations, we will unlock the true possibilities and be the place where innovation and pioneering ideas thrive.

By Lynn Power, President, J. Walter Thompson New York