Boss vs Leader

What does it mean to be a manager? The most simplistic explanation is: making decisions. A manager makes decisions in a company. Being the CEO, I’m expected to be the topmost manager of SEO Hacker. However behind every decision there’s another, more abstract decision to be made – are you gonna be a boss or a leader?

The Three E’s of Leadership

I gave a talk not so long ago about the three E’s of leadership to students of CALABARZON. The talk was held at the UP Los Banos campus – a very far off place from where I live, especially due to the traffic. It’s my latest Powerpoint deck. As it happens, it also got featured on the homepage of for a good amount of time. Here’s the Powerpoint deck:

If you noticed, towards the end, at slide 116, there’s a picture that depicts what a boss and a leader is like. A boss manages from behind while a leader does most of the work at the forefront.

I’ve been trying by God’s great grace, to be a leader. To do most of the work at the forefront – far beyond  what any other single individual in my team is doing. I do all the sales and field work in my team. I go to clients, manage expectations, keep communication lines open and maintain a good relationship with them. I still blog once in a while in SEO Hacker. I’m still hands-on with hiring new people being the final interview process. I do all the internal accounting, financing, business development, and so on and so forth.

It’s a lot to take in considering I’m doing all that and more in my new startup, a WordPress Survey Tool named Qeryz. But it’s the way I believe a leader should go in starting up a company and forming an effective team. If I’m not doing most of the work, what reason do my teammates have to work? What would their inspiration be? Seeing their leader slack off because they are carrying the weight is not a pretty sight – and is, in fact a discouragement.

Being a leader means more than just doing all the work. It means training people. Investing in them. Trusting them – sometimes to the point of heartbreak.

Not a Pretty Sight

Just recently, I had a bike ride at SM Mall of Asia with one of my clients. He is the president of Toyota Quezon Avenue branch. A man that I deeply respect as I get to know him more. On the way home after the 2 hour non-stop bike ride, I told him about how happy I was training another person to help me out in sales. He stopped me right along the tracks and told me “Sean, you know, your people will disappoint you. You have to be very careful especially with people you put in sales.”

I looked at him and kind of asked him “Why?” with how I stared. He went on to tell me about a good friend of his and how this guy was betrayed by one of his closest employees. Someone he trusted a lot. Someone who was in sales and accounts management. Then he told me how the employee started up a company exactly like his friend’s and went on to take his friend’s clients one by one.

Today, they have an open case in court and they are suing each other. It’s not a pretty sight.

I listened intently but I shrugged it off. “My team’s not like that.”, I thought. And I really believed that with all my heart.

Sad to say he was right. Shortly after, I received one of the most disappointing emails I’ve received in a long time.

My sales person whom I was training for quite some time now, resigned. Now, while the resignation is nowhere near what my client’s friend went through, it’s still a disappointment since this person is the first sales person I have ever trained. And it’s really not easy to train in sales especially in SEO Hacker.

I’m open to training only homegrown teammates who have the knack of selling – and I take them with me to live presentations, even paying for their commute to the client and back.

Now, that person is quitting. And to top it all off, it’s without a 30-day notice. It’s an immediate resignation without sufficient explanation. An extremely vague, disappointing, and not to mention (let’s call a spade, a spade) disrespectful thing to do.

Two Abstract Choices

Yeah it hurts – especially after you’ve given and given and trained that person and that person just up and left without even going out on the field yet.

So now I’m faced with the two abstract decisions of any well-meaning CEO. Am I going to be a boss? Or am I going to be a leader?

A boss would rant to the team. Make some threats maybe. Would make changes in the system so this could be prevented. Would blacklist that person. Would do some things to make oneself feel better.

A leader would shut up, take it all in, and still choose to trust the team and trust the next person who will want to take on the sales mantle. A leader would ingest the disappointment and turn it around to something good – a lesson learned perhaps.

I’ve been faced with this decision before.

And you know what? Every single time, I would choose to be a leader.

I hope you would too.

Sean Si

About Sean

is a motivational speaker and is the head honcho and editor-in-chief of SEO Hacker. He does SEO Services for companies in the Philippines and Abroad. Connect with him at Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Check out his new project, Aquascape Philippines

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