Running a business versus leading a business


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Waking up every day and feeling inspired to go to work should be a right and not a privilege, says Simon Sinek, the author of the global bestseller Start With Why. The problem most of us face today, however, is dreading work. Why is that so?

From the conversations with people I met over the years, friends and family, the number one factor – or should I say, person – is the boss.

There are so many businesses out there but what separates the successful from the mediocre? It’s not the product. In this day of age, it’s almost impossible to find a product unique to a single company or brand anymore.

It is the person behind the brand. The visionary who sees a future. The leader leading a charge towards change.

After having a chat with our guest on the Anecdotes podcast for Episode #10, Chng Zhenwei, I learned a valuable lesson: There are many businessmen in this world but leaders are hard to come by.

Here are six points that differentiate a leader from a businessman.

1. A businessman runs a business; a leader leads a cause bigger than the business itself

Anyone can be a businessman. He or she just needs to have capital and an idea or product. However, we know not every business takes off.

A leader, on the other hand, starts a business, not for the sake of earning money. The main goal is to create value for others. A leader knows providing value to others – team members and customers – is the only way any business can be sustainable in the long run.

2. A businessman doesn’t get involved in the operations at all; a leader gets his or her hands dirty in every aspect and knows the operations inside out

It’s easy to pump in money into a business and boss employees around to hit the sales target and make investors happy. A businessman is not interested in knowing how the business is run (ironically). He or she just wants to lay back and reap the profits.

It’s very different for a leader. He or she leads the charge – that’s why we call him or her a leader. To lead, we need to know who our team members are, something many bosses ignore. We roll in the mud with our team members if understanding the business requires it.

3. A businessman doesn’t care about his or her employees; a leader loves his or her team members and knows how they feel

It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Someone who just sits back, watch and pay our salaries wouldn’t care how employees feel. They rather spend the time thinking of ways to reduce costs, increase profits and get more investors on board. It’s always about me, me, me when it comes to a businessman.

Because a leader works together with his or her teammates, relationships are formed and bonds are strengthened. A leader knows how team members feel and thus, creates an environment that satisfies the needs of both the team and him or herself.

4. A businessman will sooner sacrifice his employees than to suffer losses; a leader will sooner sacrifice himself than to lose his teammates

Personal benefit is the only motivator for keeping the business afloat. A businessman can only see him or herself in the picture and never the employees.

But a leader rather suffers losses than to lose his or her teammates. A leader understands people are invaluable whereas profits can be earned with the right people and the right attitude.

5. A businessman commands and instructs; a leader nurtures and teaches

Little effort is needed in giving orders and punishing when orders are not followed. A businessman doesn’t see value in people, he or she only sees value in exploiting people.

A leader knows everyone is not born the same. But he or she recognises a kind and passionate heart. A leader is committed to nurturing and teaching teammates to become better versions of themselves.

6. A businessman only believes in numbers, hires talents and demands profits; a leader understands people, envisions a future and knows how to guide a team towards building a shared future

Last but not least, a businessman demands employees to fit in, or face retrenchment. It’s all about the numbers and short-term goals because that’s all businessmen see with their short-sightedness.

A leader wants to build a future and he or she is willing to put in the work to understand, groom and lead his teammates towards it – a shared future.

Work for a businessman and you’ll earn a salary. Follow a leader and you’ll lead a life of fulfilment.

Listen to the full episode and read the show notes here or directly from the player below.


About the author

Vance Wong

Brain-picker. Cinephile. Koreaboo.

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Vance Wong

Brain-picker. Cinephile. Koreaboo.