The Difference Between A “Leader” and a “User”

Have you ever been so excited to be a part of something bigger than yourself that you were willing to push everything else to the side? Have you ever heard an inspirational speech from a leader and met with someone that you believed every word they said? Have you ever been disappointed after you signed up and said yes? This has probably happened to every one of us at some point. We wanted the thing that another was sharing with us to be true and it sounded so good but at the end of the day, we just ended up feeling used. So how do we make sure as leaders that we are truly leading and not just using? How can we also make sure that we are being led and we aren’t just being used?

1. A Leader asks how YOU are doing. 
This is a part of our core values as an organization. I ask that all of our team members greet each other. Sometimes a person will come to work and as soon as they see the person they wanted to talk to, they will immediately go straight to business by saying something like, “So hey, did you get my e-mail about that project we are working on?” When that happens, I always stop and shake my head “no”, smile and ask, “How are you doing today?” The first time you see someone that day should not be with a question that is task related. You don’t realize this but you can actually be seen as a user if you don’t value people. Users rarely ask how you are doing and they rarely stop to genuinely listen once the question is asked. Make sure people know and feel value. Leaders care about the person, not just the task.

2. Leaders don’t abandon you when times get tough.
Users use you and then lose you. When someone gets the results they wanted from you, they are no longer interested in you. When you may be struggling and need that person to see you, to hear you and care about you, they will abandon you. When things get difficult, a leader wants to help you get through tough times. They may not always hold your hand through things but they don’t abandon you when you need them most. They still care about the relationship they have with you. 

3. Leaders lean in.
Users are thinking of what they want to say while you are speaking. Users are waiting for your o take a break so they can interject their thoughts and they don’t really care about what you are saying at the moment. Users focus on their agenda and leaders lean in to what you are saying. Leaders try to read into what you are saying by listening to what you are saying and seeking to understand where you are coming from. Leaders are paying attention to the details so that they can comprehend what your re trying to communicate. One of the best ways to train yourself to be a better listener is to repeat back to the person what they just said in your own words. This helps you to hear them and make the other person feel heard, which in turn makes them feel valued. Good listeners also ask questions. If you want to train yourself to be a better leader, learn to ask questions when someone speaks to you, not just give answers.

4. Leaders make themselves available.
Users like to be behind the magic curtain and appear when it will boost their PR rating. They like to kiss babies and shake the hands of veterans but will they actually slow down and make themselves available? Availability and approachability are the signs of a true leader. They are willing to take even a moment to acknowledge that they see you and show you that you re valuable. Users look at you as a means to get what they want. They looks at you as another cog in the machine of promoting their success. If you are feeling that way…you are being used. If when you think about a true leader, you think about someone you can talk to and that you feel comfortable approaching. Leaders are approachable.

5.  Leaders are willing to be vulnerable.
Users keep their card close to the chest because they don’t want you to see their flaws or weaknesses. They publicly deny their humanity in order to protect the way people view them. They use others following them as proverbial trophies to their success. They love admirers and fans of who they are. They are afraid to let the walls down because of the admirers they might lose. Leaders know that vulnerability is strength. Leaders know that the more transparent they are and real that they are, the more people will trust them. Leadership is about people. We should never forget why we are leading. The moment we make this about ourselves, that is the moment we begin to flirt into the territory of being a user and not a leader. 

So each of us drifts into both lanes from time to time. We are the user and sometimes we are used. How can we avoid being used and being the user? What are some things you have realized that have helped you steer clear of the potholes of being a user or being used? Please comment and share below! We are in this together! Lets help sharpen one another!

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