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A member of my team sent this picture to me this morning:

For those of you with direct reports, how important is it to your department that you are seen as the "leader" as opposed to the "boss?" Is there ever a case that being the "boss" is beneficial, or is it always a detriment to the productivity of your team? Would your department see a change in productivity or efficiency if you assumed one role over the other?

I'm curious to hear from some professionals in an industry that prides itself on phrases like "it's the car business, you have to have thick skin" and "if you don't like it there's the door" management styles. Clearly the graphic is designed to praise a "leader," but is this management style really a good fit for the auto industry? Is this depiction of a "leader" really a weak manager in application?

What do you think, should an automotive manager be a "leader" or a "boss?"

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Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on January 5, 2014 at 12:14pm

Well said above by Chip Diggs . . .

1. Manage your processes - The key here is to hold people accountable.

  • 2. Coach your people - Don't berate and chastise; show them the way and help them attain"their" goals.
  • 3. Lead your team - People love to follow people they respect.   Have a game plan and make sure everyone on your team is part of that plan.  Show them their roll and how important they are to the overall success of the team.
Comment by Eric Hinkle on December 26, 2013 at 2:32pm

The subject and graphic very well may have been seen and written about before, but that doesn’t mean the matter is stagnant.  Things change all the time including intangible issues.  There are communities of individuals and groups that claim they were ‘just born that way’.  There are clear similarities and differences associated with being a boss and/or leader.  Some bosses are a product of blood association.  Some bosses know how to weather many storms.  Some bosses are great leaders.  Some bosses are certainly dead weight.  Is there something more to this or are we strictly a product of our upbringing and environment (as it pertains to leadership)?  As stated earlier, things change.  Being born to lead may not simply be a hypothesis any longer. 

Recently, scientists from the University College London identified a genotype, called rs4950, which appears to be associated with the passing of leadership ability down through generations.  According to the results, the research involved analyzing genetic data from two large American health studies, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the Framingham Heart Study.  The scientists wrote: "Our study takes a first step towards providing new insights into the fundamental origins of leadership emergence by studying genetic variation as a possible source of leadership role occupancy.  We estimated that about a quarter of the variation in leadership role occupancy is heritable." 

The report also states that the genome isn’t the only factor that creates a leader.  Upbringing, environment and education are also considered. I agree with Brian (Bennington) very much; assuming you’re smarter than everyone else is a mistake.  We have all listened to the colleague that criticizes the boss endlessly.  That person always knows more and has all the best ideas.  That person generally has never accomplished anything but whole sentences.  It’s a fine way to alienate who you believe may be ‘your’ audience.  It may be time to take a look around the Member Directory and reevaluate your position.  I’m looking for what you’ve done – not what you’ve said.  Emoticons are precious but don’t get it done. Part of being a leader is earning the respect of those you are charged with leading.  It isn’t accomplished by undermining your boss or writing in a forum how much smarter you are than that person.  With respect to rs4950, leadership may well be something inherited and not subjugated. 

For the most part - the responses were thoughtful and well positioned.  I congratulate those of you that can accomplish this feat without pounding on your chest at the same time.  Doing so is a true trademark of leadership and enjoy reading your comments.

Comment by Chip Diggs on December 21, 2013 at 6:19pm

No one likes to be “bossed” around especially the up and coming new breed of automobile sales consultants.  More importantly, being a leader is being a leader regardless of whether you are in the car business or not.  Here's how we try to run our dealerships and our people seem to respond well.

  • 1. Manage your processes - The key here is to hold people accountable.
  • 2. Coach your people - Don't berate and chastise; show them the way and help them attain"their" goals.
  • 3. Lead your team - People love to follow people they respect.   Have a game plan and make sure everyone on your team is part of that plan.  Show them their roll and how important they are to the overall success of the team.
Comment by Tom Gorham on December 18, 2013 at 7:51pm

Ryan, thank you.  I'm still in recovery stage but progressing everyday.  Can't wait to get back up to speed and be better than ever! 

Comment by Ryan Leslie on December 18, 2013 at 2:25pm

Thoughtful post as always Tom! I tried not to taint the responses to the graphic by giving my opinion, but I agree with you. The reality of the role of a manager is that they need to be versatile enough to be a "leader" and a "boss" and sometimes wear the hat of a cheerleader, disciplinarian, counselor and psychiatrist too. They also need to be smart enough and savvy enough to recognize when to wear each of those hats in order to accelerate business. Thanks for adding your input... (How are you doing by the way?)


It was meant as a compliment, I suppose I should have mentioned that. I have the hardest working team on the Vendor side of the business and am fortunate that I get to be a "leader" as depicted most of the time.

Comment by Tom Gorham on December 18, 2013 at 8:07am

There are certainly as many different styles of management as there are management positions.  Over the years, we've pushed the leader shown at the bottom of the graphic as being the ideal.  But the best salesman is not always a good choice for manager. 

This graphic is misleading in that it depicts the "Boss" as being a dead weight, but he could have been depicted as standing at the front or side of the employees encouraging and urging them forward to the destination he has chosen through experience and vision as being best for the company.  He is leading and lighting the way.

Over the years, some of my best "bosses" have been people who inspired me to do my best.  They may not have been super-salesmen themselves but they could help create super-salesmen in their team.  And sometimes, a great manager or "boss" inspires employees to lead and excel on their own, as Alexander said below.

Comment by Matthew Smolik on December 17, 2013 at 2:08pm

A leader I've kept this picture posted right next to my desk for the  past 6 months. It reminds me to not ask any of my team to do things that I wouldn't do or say. It's easy to be an armchair quarterback but in order to effectively move the ball as a leader you need to suit up and jump in the game take T.O. s bring appointments in by phone,email,video and close deals without just dropping your pants . Sorry just my two nickels


Comment by Alexander Lau on December 17, 2013 at 2:02pm

I could have sworn I saw this here before or in another blog. Definitely have seen the picture. How about a boss that lets me lead, especially when you know more than him! :-p

Comment by Ralph Paglia on December 17, 2013 at 1:57pm

This article reminded me of the old adage about the difference between a "Manager" and a "Leader"... In many situations, it is a worthwhile exercise to analyze why employees follow your instructions and execute the work assignments you make from a "source of power" perspective:

1. Position Power

2. Reward Power

3. Punishment Power

4. Expert Power

5. Referent Power

When you take a moment to understand why each of your employees or co-workers do the things you ask of them, you can form a fairly accurate composite of your "Leadership Style" or "Management Style" as the case may be... Thank you for a great article and its thought provoking nature! 

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