From “Boss” to Leader: 4 Things You Can Do to Get There

Written by | Entrepreneurship

What separates a boss from a leader?

A leader is someone who inspires confidence, a unified vision and can drive a group of employees to perform their best in order to ensure the success of the company as a whole.

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” 

– Dwight D. Eisenhower

If a field service organization wants to thrive, it needs one great leader (or maybe even a few) in its ranks. Field service companies have several moving parts and a workforce that is not physically supervised at all times.   Because of this, it’s imperative that communication is strong and everyone is united under a singular vision. Great field service leaders inspire their employees to represent the company in a positive light, even when they’re not in the trenches with their team.

Field service companies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are 3-man teams while others have over 50 employees and are operating in several states. No matter the size of the company you’re a part of, having a great leader to unite under is crucial to company success.

If you want to assess your leadership skills or improve them, think about how you can embody the main qualities most successful leaders possess:

1. Be humble.


Remember the Titans (2000)

True leaders understand that their team is very valuable, and staff that is working with customers every day are the true lifeblood of the organization. In the field service world, humility tends to come naturally. Service work is tough, honorable work. Many field service businesses are family owned and operated with a long and proud history. However, that’s not a guarantee that every supervisor of a field service business will maintain that humility and ability to connect and empathize with its techs.

Daniel Goleman, an internationally known psychologist, public speaker and author of the 1995 New York Times Best Seller, Emotional Intelligence, said in an interview that “the top 10% of performers [at the executive level] displayed superior competencies in emotional intelligence, rather than in purely cognitive thinking.” Goleman talks about how great leaders are constantly putting others first and are highly skilled in maintaining relationships.

Put it into action: As the owner or manager of a company you can get  detached from employees, especially when only managing remotely. Getting out in the field or showing up to the office regularly and familiarizing yourself with the people who keep your operation going shows depth and if done properly, can boost employee confidence and improve their performance. It also allows you, as a leader, to determine the best strategy for your team moving forward.

2. Be decisive.

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.” 

– Henry Ford

In any high pressure situation, decisions need to be made quickly. A good field service leader takes into consideration how each decision affects the team collectively and stands firm behind his or her choice. Goleman stresses the distinction between smart and wise leaders. A smart leader creates solutions that are good for business in the short term (sort of like putting a band aid on a broken leg), while a wise leader is able to come up with short term solutions that still net results in the long term.

Put it into action:  The next time an emergency presents itself, rather than having a knee jerk reaction or defaulting to how you’ve always handled it, give yourself an extra 5 minutes to think through the available options.  Really work them through; what is the likely short and long term impact of each?  Then decide on a course of action, stick with it and own the consequences.  It’s also always helpful to have a “post mortem” on these sorts of decisions, which means revisiting the results of the decisions a couple of weeks later to see how it played out.  This is very helpful in making a more informed decision the next time around.

3. Stay fearlessly optimistic.

 _Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others._ - Robert Louis Stevenson-2

As a leader, you are under a microscope and everything you do is constantly being analyzed. Your staff looks to you for inspiration and security so remaining unwaveringly optimistic and confident in your company’s future is a key factor affecting your team’s performance.

If things get rocky, team members look to their leader for cues on how to feel about it. If a boss seems down during the slow season, is slumped in his chair, or simply never present, the team takes note of this. The boss, without saying a word, has damaged his team’s morale. Great leaders inspire, not only with their words, but with their actions.

If the leader doesn’t consistently project optimism and have faith in the team (both its members and mission), why should the team work hard for the leader? Great leaders remain confident in the team and brand even when things get tough.

Put it into action:  Regularly seek feedback on your performance and how your staff perceives you. There are a lot of ways to do this, but the easiest is to create a workplace survey that each employee can submit anonymously. Gaining insight into the general attitude of your organization and how they feel about your leadership can highlight areas in need of improvement and can give you hints as to how you are performing. Even if the feedback is mixed or difficult to digest, it is a tool that is essential to improving your business.

4. Empower others.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” 

– Ronald Reagan

Lastly, great leaders empower their team giving them the authority to make appropriate decisions so that their contribution to the business is more tangible.   Pushing relevant decisions–when to order new parts, how to manage a route–to those who are actually doing the work shows that you’re a confident leader that trusts the team and improves employee morale.

One of a leader’s jobs is to empower their staff  with the tools and confidence to do their jobs to the best of their ability. When proper processes are in place and employees feel trusted to do their jobs without unnecessary interference or micromanagement, they are more likely to rally behind their leader, take the initiative and put their best effort towards achieving the team goal.

What follows directly after empowerment is gratitude.  If your service business is growing, make sure your employees know that their work and decisions are responsible for pieces of that success. Great leaders empower their staff, give credit where credit is due, and show appreciation for their team.

Put it into action:  Reevaluate how decisions are made in your organization–is every single decision made by one or two people when they could be distributed to those that are closer to the issue? If most of your company decisions run through one person, identify a few that can be reallocated to others and monitor how that impacts productivity and morale.  Also, put a reminder on your calendar to personally thank one team member per week until gratitude becomes a habit.


A humble, decisive, optimistic and empowering leader can carry a team to victory and create a fulfilling experience in the process. A great field service leader inspires his or her employees to become self-motivated, confident parts of the grander team initiative in order to reach both the individual’s and the team’s maximum potential.  Try out these action steps in your own organization to boost morale and productivity, powering the next phase of your company’s journey.

Last modified: December 14, 2016

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