I hesitated to take on this topic. I’m not a fan of the word “boss” and, more to the point, I’m not sure how relevant the idea of “being the boss” is as everything around us changes so quickly. I would argue that our world doesn’t need more bosses, but it certainly needs more leaders.
My reaction probably has something to do with my profession. As a partner at PwC for 20 years, I’ve grown up in a culture of collaboration. It’s the nature of a partnership that we’re accountable to each other, to the partners who came before us, and to future generations to come. So while I’m honored to be a leader, I don’t see myself as the boss. I’m one of many partners, and one of my most important responsibilities is building the next generation of leaders.
Being a leader at PwC — and many other organizations — means something different these days. The days of command-and-control leaders are disappearing. With the impact of technology, the complexity of the issues we are facing, and the connectivity of the world we live in, solutions increasingly lie with the team, not the individual. As a result, we need teams with varied perspectives to tackle the challenges we’re facing; one day you might be leader, and the next day play a supporting role.
So the advice I have for those who want to carve out their own path and strike out their own is to go for it… but recognize that you’re probably not going to do it alone. That’s where being a leader comes in.
There’s a quote I like from Daniel Burrus. He says, “Managers change behavior. Leaders change the way you think without you realizing it.” Another good definition comes from Abraham Zaleznik, who says, “Managers rely on control, leaders inspire trust.” And finally, I’ll quote a partner who told me when I took on my current role, “You’ll have people who start the fire. You’ll have people who run away from the fire. Your job is to run into the fire.”
What I like about all these definitions is that it’s not about being the boss; it’s about being there with your team to face the issue, opportunity, or challenge at hand. And this is something that you can do no matter where you are in an organization. As I told a group of our newest associates recently, leadership is something you volunteer for by stepping up and offering a solution. Leadership is something to aspire to, at every stage in your career.
Being a leader at work is important, but our world needs leaders at all levels, as well. We need people who can inspire others, who can rally people of different talents to solve problems, and who are willing to share responsibility and see other points of view. I’m hoping my readers will share their stories of what it means to be a leader, or a leader who inspired you.