Become the Leader You Wish You Had

“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.

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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.

Workforces today are in need of relationship builders; people who are masterful in building relationships, as that is integral in getting the job done.

Treat your people as you would want to be treated, it is that simple. You do not need a leadership off-site to make that happen.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.