Calling bosses, leaders and so called "important people" - do you feel important??

Another coffee shop conversation from earlier today - “How come some of us in leadership positions don’t ‘feel’ it.”

This one may not come off as clear as I’d like it too - I’m having a hard time getting to a good description of what I’m talking about, but here goes.

I, for instance, am supposedly considered a “key” employee within my company. I’m a leader of people and projects, etc. and carry a good deal of responsibility and the trust of those who run the place. I’m considered ‘key’ because I’m one of the people that, if hit by a bus tomorrow, would have an adverse impact on the company’s business.

Yet, I don’t ‘feel’ like a leader. Yet others that I know in similar situations seem to “fit the part” exactly - they have a commanding presence, suck the oxygen out of every room they enter and generally have an aire of “importance” about them.

Basically the conversation today came down to a few points - why do some people who are considered important by others not feel like leaders or “important” people and others do? Do you know anyone who is a ‘key’ person but who may not act like it? Do some people simply think they’re better than others with regard to this? Is a “leadership” type person looked upon negatively if he/she doesn’t project an aire of importance?

What do you think?

I’m in the same position you are. I run my division (a small one…it’s a small firm) and run project for others.

I feel important from time to time. But I largely view my role as setting standards…management functions. My true importance is setting up the right systems and training my people properly. Once that’s done the system can function without me.

One of the reasons I’m known around DC as a ‘hired gun’, I suppose.


But you already knew that didn’t you?
t’s not about thinking you’re any better; you are better.
You (TVGUY) are “a leader of people and projects, etc. and carry a good deal of responsibility and the trust of those who run the place.”

Now get out there and suck the oxygen out of a room! People are depending on you to do it. If you don’t sooner or later somebody else will come up behind you and place footprints on your back on their way over.

Because having a title is not the same as being a leader.
Also, a lot of middle managers aren’t important in the grand scheme of things. An Army lieutenant leads a platoon of about 40 men into combat, but how important is he in the grand scheme of a division of 25,000 men?

Study hierarchies, dominance and submission behavior. Think about the way your workplace is organized. Look at the people around you. Read about how various kinds of primates behave and then imagine that humans are a species of primate. You’ll start to see a pattern.

See, I knew I didn’t state this well enough to begin with.

I don’t have a lack of confidence in my leadership skills or anything like that. What I’m saying is that when the question came up about whether a particular person “feels” like a leader, I had to answer ‘no’ - mostly because I just look at myself as “one of the guys” when I’m at work. I get the full respect that should be accorded a person in my position, I suppose and I am looked to for answers, etc.

Others, however, who are in leadership postions tend to play the part - sometimes whether they should or not. A manager I used to work with, for instance, thought it essential to her career to drive a fancy car, wear expensive suits, play golf with the boss as often as asked and put on all sorts of aires. In some ways you could have called her a brown-nose, but she was respected by her people.

What our coffee-klatch conversation came down to was really, I guess, whether 'tis better to be a confident leader who doesn’t project it or “feel” special, etc. or play the part regardless of whether you’re effective or not.

I don’t know - maybe you had to be there :wink:

… dang, hit ‘enter’ too soon after that last preview.

What really gets me is when I’m told that someone at work is scared of me! I may come off a touch grumpy on some days, but I truly don’t see how I can scare someone. I refuse to believe that it’s just my position - and maybe that gets down to the crux of this set of questions. Because I know a couple of people that would simply be thrilled to discover that a group of employees were intimidated by them.

It’s always appeared to me that a leader is judged by the way he/she leads. Not by how they dress, or how they enter a room.
You certainly sound like a leader to me, but then again I guess that wasn’t your question. I think the question is WHY don’t you feel like a leader.
It appears to me that that in itself certainly points you in the right direction. I mean, how many people are actually walking around out there saying to themselves “I am a great leader”, and they really are?
I’m reminded of a qoute from Theodore Roosevelt " I am just an average man, but I work harder than the average man." So there you have it. You said yourself that you were just one of the guys. The biggest difference is you work harder than the rest.

Well, if you’re not acting scary, chances are they ARE afraid of you because of your position. Presumably, you have the power to fire them, or to make recommendations that will get them fired. Being unemployed is a scary and real-world dangerous thing. It’s reasonable to be afraid of being fired. Even if you don’t have any interest in firing anyone, the fact that you CAN fire people is frightening in and of itself. Especially for people who’ve worked in situations where they’ve been fired for little or no reason – and frankly, there’s a lot of that going around out there.

They may feel inadequate about their job performance as well, and these feelings of inadequacy, realistic or not, translate into a fear of you.

They also may be expressing some immaturity about uneven power relationships. Part of maturing as a manager is understanding that the people who work for you have their own feelings and agendas and learning how to give them the best chance you can to thrive as people while making sure they get the job done for your firm. And part of maturing as an employee is understanding that the higher-ups are just people like you, who have their own agendas and quirks, and learning how to deal with them as people as well as ‘the boss’.

And you’re right, there are people who thrive on the fear these viewpoints engender. They’re generally fairly fucked up as human beings, but I have seen many instances where they thrive in a corporate culture.

None of this has anything to do with you directly – you many not have threatened your subordinates in any way. You just need to realize that they’re expressing their own problems and see if you can figure out what’s making them fearful and help them deal with it, without necessarily telegraphing what you think is going on.

I had a moment that brought it all together for me.

The first oil company that I worked for after college started me in a trainable monkey position, and very quickly put me in charge of the monkeys. Kind of a top sargeant position, but they made no announcement to that effect.

They left it to me to convince the other monkeys that I held the biggest bannana peel.

So, I was tentative at first. Big mistake. I had interns challenging me about the dress code. I had no clear authority, but it soon was apparent that I had to distill some order from a chaos no one else would shoulder.

So, I effected some procedures and paid attention to all we did, but I still had almost no authority.

Until we hired a woman with great technical skills, and US Army experience, who confronted me in a hallway one day when we were extremely scattered and said something like, “You’re my CO, and I need you to tell me what to do now! You’re in charge of knowing what is more important at the moment.”

That experience convinced me that I needed to take authority where I needed it, or, where it was floating.

The experience has served me well.