Are You a Boss, Leader, or Builder? | Mindsteps Inc.

Are You a Boss, Leader, or Builder?

Every time someone says that they are doing something “like a boss,” I cringe. Being a boss is the most ineffective form of leadership. It focuses on exercising power and control to get those underneath you to do what you ask them to do. As a boss, you’re constantly pushing folks forward towards your goals. That’s an exhausting way to lead.

So what about being a leader? For years, we have been told that to build a great school, we need to exercise transformational leadership. But, after working in really tough schools in desperate need of transformation, I have learned that leadership is no longer enough. Leadership as it’s traditionally taught, encourages leaders to walk alongside or just slightly ahead of those they lead, encouraging and supporting others while they keep a firm eye on the vision and goal before them. That’s certainly better than being a boss, but while leadership strategies will help you make small, incremental improvements or maintain the status quo, they won’t foster the kind of transformation that most schools are in desperate need of.

Transformation doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a principled way of thinking, acting, and being that pervades every interaction and decision. It’s not just about convincing people to do as we want or dragging them towards some lofty goal. It’s about moving beyond simply leading to building something better and inviting others to become a part of it.

That’s what Builders do. They don’t push folks from behind. They don’t even walk beside those they lead. Instead, they forge ahead of the pack, create a pathway forward, and build something so amazing that others are compelled to move forward and join them. Bosses coerce others, leaders attempt to persuade others, but Builders? Builders invite others. And because their vision is so compelling and because they have already created the path, others move forward on their own toward the goal.

There are far too few Builders in the world. That’s because becoming a builder means taking a different path than traditional leadership. It means zigging when everyone else is zagging. It means challenging the traditional notions of leadership. It means offering those we lead something better.

At Mindsteps, we are building a tribe of Builders. If you’re a builder or looking to become one, watch this space. In the next few weeks, I am going to share with you how to become a builder and how to connect with others in the Builder’s Tribe. So, if you’ve been out there Building all by yourself or you’ve felt that there HAS to be something better than leadership, you’re in the right place.

What’s the difference between a boss, a leader, and a builder? Check out this chart and then listen to this episode of the School Leadership Reimagined Podcast for a more in depth discussion of what a Builder really is.

  • Diana S says:

    I feel like I am a leader who is learning to become a builder.

  • Betrease says:

    I’m a leader looking to become a builder.

  • Denise Rawding says:

    Thank you so much for this insight! I have avoided traditional school leadership positions because the role did not seem to “fit” me. Now I know why. I am a builder.

  • Nicole says:

    This is such an interesting perspective! I’d say I’m a leader moving towards being a builder.

  • Jill says:

    Love this!

  • […] good friend, David Nycz, is a teacher who shared this article and the graphic […]

  • Monisola Olaoye says:

    This is great information. I’m inspired. Thanks

  • Molly says:

    I am a builder. And I always wondered why I didn’t feel like I fit in traditional leadership/manager models…

  • Lenora Richardson says:

    I love this chart. For the most part, I philosophically identify on the Builder side but I find many times due to my job, I fall in the leader column. Too often, our philosophical identities are lost in the day to day workings.

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