My company is now monitoring “customer communication,” also known as all of their employee’s emails. When I was told this, I was in the middle of writing an email to my boss:
Can you take a look at this project and let me know if it requires trenching and an MPU?
I looked at my co-worker, “wait who will be reading the emails?” She looked over my shoulder and shook her head, “Yeah, you’re going to need to fix all of that.” When my boss comes into the office, I always shake his hand and we sit there shaking hands saying “Boss nice to see you,” “Nice to see you too Boss.” If I complete a task he’s asked me to do he says, “Thank you Boss,” and I reply “You’re welcome Boss.” All my emails to him are titled Aloha Bo$$, with the money signs. He will write back:
Please have site techs complete an electrical re-visit for the meter main combo.
I have never had a boss address me as boss, and it makes me feel important, like I am the Beyonce of my specific role in the solar industry, capable of handling whatever is thrown at me, but if shit really hits the fan, I have the real boss to go to for backup and support. But this is because my boss is more of a leader than a “boss,” and there is a difference. There are certain bosses, I have certainly had a few, who wore their role as the boss like a sceptre, the symbolic ornamental staff that ruling monarchs used to hold as a sign of imperial insignia. You’ll hear someone, usually with “Executive” or “Director” in their title, call themselves “the boss”like they are waving their medieval wand over you, the dirty proletariat, and it does not make you feel like Beyonce, it makes you feel like a surf wearing a burlap sack with a hole in the butt. These people are usually someone who is capable and focused on climbing the ladder, someone who works hard, mainly for themselves, and who believes that the people underneath them owe them their time and hard work. Here on the Big Island we call that “mainland mentality,” and it is frowned upon.
Leaders seem to possess a sense of keen self awareness that allows them to be a quieter, more honorable type of person. Someone focused on a bigger goal which is bigger than themselves, and someone who views the people working for them as valuable assets, a team of dedicated individuals whom without, their dream or company would be unmanageable. The difference is one way of thinking is simple and easy and the other way is harder and much more work. And this is why:
Leaders have to know their people. People are complex, they aren’t just what is listed on a resume, or recommended by a professional reference. People have dreams, passions, skills, talents, they grow, they change, they need, they want. Leaders not only understand this, but they take the time to really understand the people on their team- discover who they are, which is a lot of hard work. It involves a lot of asking, and a lot of listening. Leaders know that taking the time to devote to understanding the other people they are working with is important because life is not just work.
Leaders see the “big picture.” The big picture always involves more than just a single person. The big picture is that life is not just your one self, or your own personal work. The big picture is life- which includes many many other people. Life is family, it’s relationships, friendships, love, it’s exploration, it’s experiences, it’s a roller coaster, and work is just a part of it. A leader understands that each person they are accountable for is living their own unique, complex life- full of their own unique struggles, passions, disappointments, successes and hopes. This is important because when you lose sight of the big picture you end up shrinking your world when in actuality you want to expand.
Leaders lead by example. Leading by example doesn’t mean that everyday at work you are flawless, it means that everyday you are at work you are honest, you try your best, you are sincere, and never give up. A good leader can have a bad day, but won’t let those bad days get them down in the long haul, they never lose hope. A good leader admits mistakes, takes accountability, honors their word, and respects others. Respect is something that some bosses seem to believe their employees owe them instantly, just based off some hierarchy put in place to create a sense of structure. But leaders know that respect is not only a two way street and something that every person is owed, but also something that is earned and can be lost. Leaders don’t talk down, or shut down people working with them- they don’t use their authority to belittle others to build themselves up. They don’t see value in silencing people they may disagree with. Because the rare, intelligent, and talented people won’t follow a leader who breaks them down or disrespects them forever. People of value won’t stick around and let you beat them down, they will leave. And true leaders know that no one can accomplish anything alone.
Leaders know how to communicate. They can easily make their thoughts and feelings known to others who are looking to them for answers or advice in a positive and effective way. They don’t manipulate. They can explain things clearly. They know how to actively listen, they can make tough decisions, they can handle problems or concerns with sensitivity and awareness. They are direct, they are firm and they are never all-knowing. They are thoughtful and they are honest when speaking to others.
Leaders have imagination and can laugh.
Leaders have swept the floor, they aren’t above anything.
Leaders say thank you.
Leaders are FAIR.
Leaders reward hard work.
Leaders call bullshit.
Leaders take action.
Leaders observe and learn.
Leaders encourage, empower, and stand up for their team.
My generation is an entrepreneurial generation. We have a lot at our fingertips and plenty of ideas but that’s not enough, we have to learn how to lead. It’s inevitable that if you aren’t working towards your own dream you will spend your time and energy tirelessly working to make someone else’s dream come true. I think no matter what, we all need to resolve to learn as much as we can from people in power, really put thought behind what we experience and see, so when the time comes, we can get it right.
I looked over my email to edit it:
Thank you for being the leader of the tribe. Your solar warriors appreciate all that you do for us.
My co-worker read it and shook her head again, “I don’t think corporate is going to understand the Hawaii branch.” I shrugged, “This ain’t the mainland,” I told her.