The New Year has arrived. Your plans should be in place regarding your strategies for 2016. Budgets, manpower issues, and capital improvements have been finalized, and now it’s time to begin implementing all of those new ideas. I suggest perhaps now’s a time to take a look at the way you direct your company or group of employees, whether that group is large or small. Are you their boss or leader? You may be saying, “What’s the difference? Don’t those two words mean the same thing?”

I believe there is an enormous difference in being a boss and a leader, and, as participants in the HVAC business, we don’t usually receive much training regarding being a boss or a leader.


As an employee, would you rather be led by a leader or directed by a boss? If you’re the one doing the bossing or leading, this may be something you’ve never thought about. However, I assure you that your employees will have a distinct opinion regarding whether you are a boss or leader. Here is why employees can tell so easily which you are. A boss will typically tell you what he (or she) wants accomplished, and then follow up with the method he wants you to use to accomplish the task. He will likely watch your progress very closely and, in fact, make sure you’re doing it in the way he insisted. This is the typical system a boss uses to get various tasks accomplished. A problem with this method is that it’s limited by the proficiency of the person doing the bossing. From the company’s standpoint, it’s also often limited in that it really only provides a place for the thoughts and ideas that are those of the boss. Additionally, it can be discouraging to the employees being bossed, who may have his or her own ideas regarding how the task should be accomplished. A boss will likely take on these boss methodologies because his ego has a desire to prove that he is the boss.

On the other hand, a good leader will take a different approach to getting tasks accomplished. The leader’s eventual goals may be exactly the same as those of the boss, but he will get them accomplished differently. A leader will explain to his employee or employees, if there are multiple individuals involved, what he would like to have accomplished. He will make sure they are clear on the desired end result. If appropriate, he will indicate to them the time frame in which the task must be accomplished. At this point, the leader’s and boss’s methods take different paths. The leader will let the employee go about getting the task accomplished using the methods the employee feels are best. The theory is that the individual closest to the details of a task is in the best position to decide the method to accomplish the task.


In our industry, and specifically in our company, we have foremen who are appointed to direct groups of employees to accomplish differing types of jobs. If I wanted to boss these foremen, I would tell them exactly when, how often, and technically how they should be directing those under them. However, I don’t feel, as the leader of the company, I’m really in the best position to make those determinations. Each individual and group of individuals may require different types of direction depending upon a number of factors, such as the type of work, whether or not it is repetitive, etc. If I’m providing overall leadership to our company properly, I can’t possibly be in the best position to know the answers to all of those questions.

This is an especially important concept in our industry because so many current leaders were once the guys out there working with the tools and actually performing the tasks. But, that was before, and this is now. It can be difficult for an individual who was actually doing the work to become a leader and direct someone to do the work rather than being a boss and bossing him into doing the work. Being able to forget that ego and the train of thought that your way of doing a job is always best is not easy. However, the farther removed you become from actually performing the work, the more important it is to allow the person you’ve selected to do the work do it in the manner he feels is the most effective.

Your company, branch, or department will achieve much more if you lead that group rather than act as its boss. A great New Year’s resolution would be to resolve to be a leader and not a boss.

Publication date: 1/25/2016 

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!