By Ron Thomas

“Be the leader you wish you had.”

– Simon Sinek

When I read that quote, I had visions of a boss I worked for at one time who would win the Oscar for the “Bad Boss” award. I also worked for a CEO who would win the Oscar for “Best Boss.”

My best boss was a model for the leader I wanted to be. She was a relationship builder. She led from the bottom up, taking time for people who were not visible on the organizational chart.

The bad boss was the boss from hell. Mean, vindictive, jealous and a host of other words that would be highly descriptive, but unprintable. What I learned from her was how NOT to be a boss. The plan was simple, everything she did I did the polar opposite.

Leadership in the digital age is diametrically opposed to the old style of a leader. Leadership is about empowering others to lead and creating teams that optimize their day-to-day operations. Leadership is no longer hierarchical. It needs participation, involvement and contribution from everyone. You will not achieve excellence by being the boss from hell or some variation thereof.

Who do you learn from?

Today, leaders need to deal with unprecedented change and an unpredictable and challenging future due to the aptly call 4th Industrial Revolution. This revolution is driven by the advent of new technologies, developed around artificial intelligence. In such a world, leadership will play a bigger role than ever. Leaders will have to create and show the way forward amid transitions, disruptions, chaos and ambiguity.

All that being said, if you, like I, have had that bad leader, reread the quote: “Be the leader you wish you had.” What is your style? What do you wish your leader would have done to further your development? Analyze the relationship you would want and then live and breathe it.

I know more engaged leaders on the lower end of the totem pole than are at the top. Matter of fact we all do. True leaders want to see their people surpass all their goals. True leaders want to help, not direct. Leadership is not about having a title. All a title does is make you a “confirmed” leader. While position and authority give you the right to be the boss, they do not make you a leader. You don’t suddenly become a leader just because you have a fancy new title. In fact, you don’t need a title to lead.

Be a relationship builder

Although I have hired huge numbers of people throughout my career, I always was guided by leaders that were good at building relationships.

My interview questions would center around their past jobs, but not so much about their success. I wanted to know how many of the people they worked with they still hear from. I kind of figured that if you still hear from them, whether about a new job they just landed or some other success, they regard you as important in their lives. When I got the opposite kind of response, I knew I possibly had a technical expert , but the missing part of the equation was their lack of connecting.

My preference was to hire people who could build relationships.

About the Author:

Ron Thomas is the Managing Director of Strategy Focused Group an international consulting firm based in Dubai. He is a visiting executive faculty member at the Global Human Resources Leadership Institute at Howard University School of Business in Washington, DC. He is also a senior faculty member of the Human Capital Institute, covering the MENA/Asia Pacific & Africa Region.