Bossiness and Leadership

I’m not sure if it’s my focus or a trend, but I have lately been repeatedly faced with the contrast in this title. Online as well as offline. A boss says “Go” while a leader says “Let’s go”. I wouldn’t be me if I’d leave this case unnoticed.

I have mentioned before that I see being in control of your own attention as one of the essential skills a human being needs. I’d like to add that I think of attention as a sticky substance. To give you a plain example: your attention has just gone out to the difference between the boss and the leader. Why? Because you chose to read this and my attention went that way. And why did mine go there? On- and offline surroundings. We are all part of an attention flow in the same direction. Principle of sticky attention.

Back to leadership and bossiness. By moving his or her attention in a direction, a leader pulls a wrinkle in the field. The attention, followed by the body and the actions, takes a direction and it pulls the attention of others along. A boss, on the other hand, sends out short pulses of attention (orders) to another, expecting that the other will start the movement. This pulse contains a message that is encrypted by words and concepts, so it has to be decyphered first, after which the receiver has to be willing and able to follow its content, perferably in an undivided way. That is far more complex behaviour, meaning that much more can go wrong. The attention, sticky as it is, is likely to get partially stuck at points where it is not needed. In frustrations or projections for example.

Leadership as a less divided approach is clearly more likely to work. But to be a good leader, you need to be able to guide more attention than just your own, which is already hard in the first place. Yet even if heaving your attention undivided is not easy, I believe it is the only to show that bossy behaviour doesn’t work.

If we take leadership over ourselves, we can take leadership even over our bosses and convert them into leaders. They might not even notice.


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