In 2014, while walking along Fourth Avenue in Historic Downtown Franklin, TN., I accepted my own reality that it was time to start The Inside Story, LLC. I had worked hard in my profession, took the time to develop the best practices, and I understood the rules of the industry. I knew I wanted to serve, not only other people, but my spirit needed me to care for it too. It was in that moment that my vision became undeniable and with my laptop and newly acquired printer, literally hit the ground running.
It wasn’t long before I realized that it was time to hire additional team members. I was entrenched in administrative tasks and busy- work with little time to focus on my goals for the business. The result of adding team members meant being someone else’s boss, not just my own, and more time and management of the business. I was already accustomed to bossing myself around, but by popular labor standards, would be in hot water if I treated employees the same way I treated me at times!
Being a boss is not what I really wanted, but being a leader became necessary. My team was already efficient, intelligent, and hard working in their own way and they did not need a “hall monitor” checking their every move. What they needed was my vision, my passion, and my uncompromised integrity that was committed to their long-term success. Considering the idea, what exactly is the difference between a boss and leader? Can someone lead without being the boss? What qualities separate the boss and the leader? As I reflected on my own past experiences, researched the topic, and familiarized myself with the concepts, I became determined to understand and represent the differentiation.
Although leadership can be hard to define and mean different things to different people, some key characteristics seem to highlight the distinction between the two “titles”. I’ve learned that leaders set the direction and guide their people to the right destination. Similar to cutting a path through a wooded forest, a leader shows the rest of the group the way to get where they are going. Leaders are proactive, looking ahead, and always moving forward.
Leaders also create and inspire with a vision. The vision sets the priorities and makes it compelling enough where people can relate, understand, and embrace it. Through coaching, building, and bringing people together for a common purpose, this vision shapes The Inside Story and inspires passion for shared values and meaning. Clear and communicated vision equates to an invested team towards the same goal.
Leaders motivate and teach rather than intimidate and retaliate. There is no greater motivation than seeing the head of the company down in the trenches working alongside everyone else and showing that hard work is being done on every level. By working alongside team members, a leader is able to coach in the moment, lead by example, and acknowledge and commend the work that is being done. Being able to inspire the team has an amazing impact on enthusiasm and encourages everyone to feel like a contributor in where the company is going.
While these three characteristics are just a few of many that represent leadership, my capacity to execute these concepts continues to grow. I’m learning that leadership is a process, not a title on a business card or a management style. Leadership has little to do with personal attributes, nor is leadership automatic. Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality for the greater good of others. So when I get asked about why I decided to take this journey called The Inside Story, it wasn’t to become someone’s boss or manager. I started down this path because I wanted to work with amazing people, whether they were a client or a team member. I started The Inside Story because I wanted to serve people well, make a difference in their lives, and have the proper environment to consistently exemplify good will, integrity, and commitment. However you see yourself or high the stakes may be, take a deep breath and remind yourself of the leader you are and the leader you would like to become.
“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” – Henry David Thoreau
Feature Writer of The Inside Story LLC