Senior Advisor, Human Resources and Communications Executive Vice-President
Tennessee Valley Authority
According to Wikipedia, Boss’s Day is generally observed on or around October 16th in the United States. It has been pitched as a day for employees to thank their bosses for being kind and fair throughout the year, but some have opposed the concept as nothing more than a meaningless Hallmark Holiday and critiqued it for placing undue pressure on employees to kowtow to managers who earn more than them and exercise power over them. With all due respect to bosses around the world, my exception to Boss’s Day has nothing to do with its concept. Instead, my problem is with its title.
I believe that being someone’s boss is simply a matter of position, totally unworthy of observance, laudation or acclaim. Conversely, leadership is something that should be observed, celebrated and praised. Unlike positional authority, true leadership is grounded in one’s disposition. My father would tell me that there are only two types of people, “those you can’t wait to see, and those whom you can’t wait to see leave!” I think the same applies to leaders and bosses.
During the course of my 40-year legal career, I have been blessed with the opportunity to lead various teams of professionals, including service center clerks, diversity and inclusion experts, legal interns, and regulatory compliance lawyers. I have been equally fortunate to work for some wonderful individuals, who happened to be my bosses, which is particularly true in my current role as Senior Advisor for TVA’s Human Resources and Communications Executive Vice-President.
Through the experiences accumulated from my career, I’ve learned that leadership is not bestowed upon an individual because of their hierarchical title in an organization. Quite the contrary! Leadership is an honor someone earns for distinguished service, and it can only be awarded by those they lead. Leadership requires us to consistently demonstrate our character, commitment, and competence to engage others, and to inspire them to continuously drive towards achieving our desired business outcomes. Each of the most effective and beloved leaders I’ve worked for and strived to emulate had a clear vision of what’s best for the organization, a service-oriented mindset, and an ability to build strong relationships. Putting others first, honesty and fairness are among their top core values. In other words, it was never a matter of their position, but always a result of their disposition!