I’ve had some pretty terrible bosses over the years. I can now see, I have been a pretty terrible employee at times too. I have learned that not all bosses are leaders. Although I have had a few that are.
After 18 years of working for other people in accounting roles for various industries, I decided to start my own business. After a thorough business plan, meetings with business owners and industry professionals in my area, and after months of preparation, there were definitely things I expected to change. There were also many areas that took me completely off guard once my business got rolling. The complete change in employee-based versus consultant-based workflow, the unpredictability of income from one week to the next, and how quickly I realized that not every business was a client I wanted, just to name a few.
The one that I did not expect at all, the one I am still discovering, is how much I actually desire leadership. I was always a very independent employee and I was often convinced I could do a better job at managing the department or the whole company than my own boss. I now know how much they had to deal with that was never even on my radar. I have more respect now for my terrible bosses than I ever thought possible. And that much more for the excellent ones. As business owners, we are not only accounting managers, but billing clerks, collections agents, strategists, marketing professionals, PR agents, IT technicians, and every C-level officer rolled into one. Over the last three years, I have stumbled through these other unexpected roles and have been quite horrible at some of them. At first I thought I needed a boss again, somebody to just tell me what to do and when. Try telling that to my slightly younger self and I would have laughed hysterically. But that would be a task-master and not necessarily a leader. Some days within the last few years, I would have been satisfied with even that.
Forbes.com says leadership is “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal”. I believe it is perfectly natural, and in fact healthy of us to want to be led, even leaders themselves. I don’t think anyone can honestly say they have no need to continue to learn from and be influenced by others, to establish relationships with people you respect that are stronger in the areas in which you are weaker. For me, that meant not finding one person, an all-encompassing mentor for all areas, but many individuals that have strengths in one area at a time that I am clearly lacking.
You always have the opportunity to have leaders in your life as they do not have to be strictly work-related. Teachers, pastors, counsellors, coaches, or even peers can provide leadership if you are willing to accept it. Even my years as a choir director opened my eyes to what people looked for in a leader. I learned how to communicate the same material to multiple skill sets all at the same time and with a unified result. That single role prepared me more for my current training career than any other experience.
When you are an employee, you do not have the luxury of choosing your boss. But as a business owner or entrepreneur, you can hand pick the people you want in your life that will help you improve your business and yourself. I have been blessed and fortunate to now have, and to be able to continue to find, leaders who can set wonderful examples for me in how to do that. Some of them don’t even know who they are. Some do. That craving for leadership is slowly but surely getting satisfied. The desire to continue to improve myself and my business has resulted in some strong client relationships, business partnerships, and wonderful employees. Hopefully, I am a better boss to them than I was an employee. Maybe one day I’ll be a leader too.