Bosses vs. Leaders

“Bosses make an example out of people while Leaders set an example.” We’ve seen the movie “Horrible Bosses” and likely have seen others criticize their managers or former managers on social media or even in the workplace. How often do you hear about a manager who’s a great leader? I’d like to tell you a few of mine and my experiences

My Role: Workstation Support Technician – Public Sector
My Supervisor: Jerad B

Jerad was and still is a great guy. He was also not the one to mess with in a technical interview. His people skills are impeccable as well as his technical skills. He can spot someone BS’ing technical know-how in an interview immediately. Straight to point on work matters demeanor, he can come off as pretty intimidating in the beginning. Where he shines as a leader is that he would always ensure that his team was solid in all aspects and support us with his technical knowledge and prowess. In addition, he would host weekly on-on-one meetings with us. In these meetings, we would review assigned tickets, assigned projects, issues (if any), and career growth within the team and beyond. I would routinely ask for feedback if I lacked in any areas and if he wanted any particular results out of me regarding my work performance. I would say 6 months to a year into the job, we started the career conversation and growth with big questions: “Where do I see myself next?”, “Do I want to be a lead?”, “Do I want to get to his level and become a supervisor?”, “Do I want to become a manager (his boss’ level)?”, and “Do I want to pivot to another department within our IT division?” The last one took me by surprise but like me, he’s very attentive to detail. That question got asked during my interview with him and our manager with, “What are my goals?”. When I told him my long term goal was to become a Network Engineer after mastering the Workstation Support Role, he would tell me, “We’ll see how we can make that happen. You’re one of my best guys but if that’s your goal and they eventually open up a role, you’d be great with them!”. Down the road, he would cleverly assign me workstation tickets to our in-house network guys on both divisions: The State side and the Tolling side. He did it to get me exposure and for me to talk shop with them after all my work tasks were completed.

My Role: Network Technician – Public Sector
My Manager – Thomas C.

Before Tom, there was our previous manager, Aaron R. so I’ll start with him. My time with him was brief compared to my team but pleasant. He always ensured I had any and every tool I needed to complete my job. He had a phased approach for me:
Phase 1 – Work closely with my direct peer, Roger and get a good hold of our entire wired and wireless network infrastructure was which was entirely Aruba Networks/HPE.
Phase 2 – Work closely with my one of my other peers and now friend, Jay for both the server environment which comprised of compute, backup, and storage. This was also tied to two others, Michael who was Jay’s counterpart for South Florida, and Tom who was our supervisor at the time.
Phase 3 – Balance both sides and take on whatever gets thrown at our team with Aaron continuing to leverage me more for active and future projects.

Now we get to Tom and let me just say, he remains to be my most memorable leader till this day. He was our previous supervisor and lived in the “trenches” with us, so to speak but also helped lead the team. When Aaron left, he unanimously got our vote to take the torch internally. He interviewed vs. other candidates and he got the job!
Since leading the team, he lead with compassion and good leadership. He led by example and ensured we were always heard. While in any management role where you’re primarily leading, he would still be in the trenches with us and would routinely say, “I’ll do my part on the management front and will help X initiative by doing this.” Other times when his workload became overwhelming, he made sure he lead by example vs. telling us what to do and expecting results.
When COVID-19 was making its way to Florida, he was the first manager to ask for our Infrastructure team to be fully remote in advance so we and our families wouldn’t get sick. Tom is married to an amazing nurse and I too was dating an amazing nurse at the time, so that move alone meant volumes. We ourselves were subject to contracting COVID-19 due to exposure from our significant others.
If things were going awry for us professionally or personally, he would always reach out to make sure we’re good and accommodate, if necessary. I won’t speak for my former team members but I’ll give an example. From October 2020-November 2020, my maternal grandfather nearly died as he was entering Stage 4 Kidney Failure. His kidneys entered that threshold of 0%-10% kidney function where it immediately and drastically affected his health. He collapsed twice in our home and was rushed to the ER with the third time being rushed during a doctor’s visit. It was at that time we jointly made a decision for him to be put on dialysis. The following appointments would have my grandmother and I taking him and sometimes me alone due to the time durations of some treatments. There was a time I had to ask Tom permission to work fully remote during those days and in exchange to be in the office afterwards. Tom would tell me, “Manny, you do what you gotta do for your family and yourself. We got you! You do so much for this team, rest easy, we can handle things. Your family is important as you are important to us. Let me know what you need and it’ll be taken care of.”

With Tom, it goes beyond the compassion as much as it was a beautiful perk. He truly had our back in the workspace which is crucial when multiple teams collaborate, or conflict on projects or initiatives. He would always call a meeting and ensure every team was on the same page. If we had unclear guidelines from upper management above him, he would get clarification and clearly lay it out for us and most importantly, support and work alongside us. If our department got assigned a new project, initiative, implementation, rather than respond, “OK we’ll get it done”, he would respond, “I’m going to bring it up to my team first then we’ll get it done”. Much like Aaron, he entrusted everyone and our capabilities, elevating everyone as an efficient SME, or subject matter expert with our opinions holding enough weight as a manager when discussing anything with him. A fun part about Tom, he loved seeing the work happen. When he would give me tasks for the network, I would offer to show him my work in real-time (if he had the time) and/or he would ask to tag along. It wasn’t micromanagement if you’re thinking it, it was more so tagging along. Not all managers do that but I personally loved it as it helped reinforce my learning as I would calmly explain my tasks on the CLI and implement. Answering any questions he may have diligently. Finally, he always encouraged and fostered trainings to maintain and improve our skill sets. He always praised me and even endorsed me studying for my CCNP Enterprise while on the clock as long work was completed and I didn’t slip on anything. Anything to make myself and team to become better, smarter, and stronger.

Great leaders make all the difference on a team and in an organization. They make your day-to-day work flow seamlessly. They empower you and foster your growth, even if it means one day you’ll leave them and the organization. They want you to be the best version of yourself on the team, in the organization, and in your career. They think of your best interests and the interests of the team and company. Leaving Jerad and the team was hard as much as it was amazing. It meant leaving my comrades and leader behind. But it wasn’t as bad because it meant I could become an even greater asset to him and my former team on the Infrastructure side of things. Leaving Tom hurt the most as it meant leaving a leader that was so good to me and our team. Someone who did everything he could to keep me as much as he was happy to see me go and fulfill my dreams as a Network Engineer. The manager I have now, Michael K. reminds me so much of Tom and what he represented. It was difficult leaving Tom and now I can’t picture leaving Mike any easier either. I won’t write an working example of him (yet), but one is coming. (Mike if you’re reading this, you’ll get your feature after I make a year with the company haha).

If you ever get a great leader on your team, empower them as they empower you. Let them know how supported you feel with them leading. Too many in management today are power-hungry and ego-driven by office politics and the power they wield. “The Great Resignation” I believe also shed a light as those specific managers that bled their teams dry and which still empowered and protected them, in my humble opinion. Too little great managers fly under the radar and go to bat for their team. A job is a job at the end of the day but a great leader is something more that adds something remarkable and unforgettable to your career.

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