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"A boss says 'Go!' A leader says 'Let's Go.'"

This well-known quote by author E.M. Kelly succinctly identifies the difference between boss and leader and it requires us to ask of ourselves: Which am I?

In the morning, when we look in the mirror, do we see a mentor, an enabler, a team builder, the leader we need to be to move our people and our organization forward in today's challenging marketplace? Do we see the leader we want to be, the leader we need to be? Or do we see a boss?

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A leader shares a vision

Leaders create a detailed picture of the possibilities, options and opportunities to come – and then share that vision with people so clearly that all who bump up against it are inspired and drawn to it.

They communicate what needs to be done – and why. Spread the light so your entire organization is illuminated.

Great leaders are not born – they are made. Made by the principles they heed, by their integrity and their demeanour. They set the standard.

The philosopher and founder of Taoism, Lao-Tzu, characterized outstanding leadership 2,500 years ago, in the following way:

"The superior leader gets things done with very little motion.

He imparts instruction not through many words but through a few deeds.

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He keeps informed about everything but interferes hardly at all.

He is a catalyst, and though things would not get done as well if he weren't there, when they succeed he takes no credit.

And because he takes no credit, credit never leaves him."

Little has changed.

A leader enables

They train people. They enable employees to stretch themselves, to become more than they were. It's good for the leaders – they end up with skilled staff. It's good for the companies – they are more productive. It's good for the employees – they are proud of their performance and happy for their future marketability.

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Mike Borg, senior market development manager at Hewlett-Packard, remarked to me when I was researching my book Would You Work for You? that by training staff, you enable them. "You don't have to rely on management to make every single decision. We rely on people who are closest to day-to-day activities to make sound decisions, with support and some guidance from management."

A leader gives gifts

Today, in study after study examining what employees want in the workplace, the answers come back the same. People want respect, to be a real part of the team, to have an impact on decision making about their jobs, to have an opportunity to learn new skills, to grow and develop.

Good leaders give their people small gifts – tickets to a ball game, a free lunch, a day off. Great leaders give their people big gifts – space to grow, exhilarating challenges, trust, recognition and empowerment.

A leader builds

Each employee's success is amplified when they are part of a team. A smart leader builds a company of leaders. And everyone benefits.

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You know you have a great team in your organization when its members help each other on their own, even though such assistance is not part of their responsibility.

You know you have a great team when everyone has a shared understanding of what your organization as a whole is trying to accomplish.

You know you have a great team when everyone knows the team values and how those values are used to make decisions.

You know you have a great team when everyone's value in the organization is focused on teamwork, participation, innovation and quality.

A leader is fearless

A fear of people smarter, bigger, better than yourself creates dwarfism.

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Confident leaders understand this. They don't expect to solve all their organizations' problems alone. They delegate responsibility. They realize their role is to get things started, to facilitate, to encourage – and then to get out of the way.

A fear of the future grinds the organization to a halt. So be fearless. Recognize the need to be flexible, ever-changing. Since your challenges will be different in the future, your solutions must also be different.

A leader sees himself in the mirror

Exemplary leaders are "mirror-test worthy." They can look at themselves and be satisfied with the image they see. They can feel the trust and confidence that their employees reflect back at them. They set an example for the rest of the organization. And when asked "Would you want to work for you?" they can answer in the affirmative. A boss can't.

Sam Geist (@samgeist) is a professional speaker, author and facilitator who specializes in strategy, marketing and leadership.

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