Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy CEO or Boss Guy

“Tinker Tailor” is an old English counting game, nursery rhyme and fortune telling song that dates back to the late 1400’s. No, it did not include the ending profession of “CEO or Boss Guy.” I added that in as a question for you senior executives.

The question—are you a CEO or Boss? They are not one and the same. Each travels down a different road. Each road traveled will produce different results. I will briefly address the two seemingly similar but different roads.

The Boss

There are many attributes that distinguish a Boss from a CEO. I will focus briefly on three. Bosses are unrecognizable. They are perfection-oriented. Bosses are self-centered.

Bosses have their pictures strategically located for all to see as in any organization. Other than the organization’s leadership few, if any, employees can recognize the boss even if they were standing side by side. A boss rarely mingles with the employees and has little face time with them other than at company events, where making an appearance is not an option. If you pay attention, you will notice the employees looking in awe and whispering to each other “hey, isn’t that the Boss?” And “gee, he doesn’t look anything like his picture!”

Bosses are demanding. More importantly, bosses are equally concerned with how the task is being completed. Bosses border on being omnipotent. It is not enough for successful completion of a task but that the work was completed in the fashion expected. Bosses are concerned with perfection as much as a success. In many cases, Bosses are more perfection-oriented than success oriented.

Lastly, Bosses are centered on how they look. How they look to the Board, the investors, and their peers. They have little concern for how they are viewed by their staffs, employees and in many cases, to their customers. Bosses live with a “me first” mentality. The Boss is quick to look for who is to blame when a project does not turn out as expected. A Boss will tell his executive staff one thing and do something else. Bosses actions do not match their words.

I could go on with character traits of Bosses but why? I am sure we have all had the opportunity to work with or for a few. World-class bosses worthy of note are: Kenneth Lay of Enron—securities fraud. Bernard Ebbers of WorldCom—SEC violations and Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco paid himself unauthorized bonuses and loans in excess of $600 million. I am sure you can think of a few.

CEO—AKA “Elite Leader”

I like to look at CEOs as Elite Leaders. These leaders also have many distinguishing attributes. I will focus on three. CEOs, Elite Leaders, are easily recognizable. Success, not perfection is their focus. They are organization centered.

CEOs have their pictures strategically located for all to see. The image serves the purpose of informing visitors who the CEO is. The employees do not need the picture because they see the CEO around the campus or in the cafeteria. Moreover, many have had short conversations with the CEO on subjects ranging from the results of a sporting event to serious subjects facing the company. At the mandatory company events, you will note the smiles and overhear the whispers “hey, she should get rid of the picture in the lobby, it does not do her justice.”

CEO’s are inspiring. They realize the important issue is the success, not perfection. CEO’s ask questions. They are interested more than interesting. CEO’s are smart as well as humble.

Lastly, CEO’s are centered on the success of the organization and those that make the day to day happen. They publicly praise individuals for their behavior as well as their successes. They chastise offenders privately and leave them with a sense of “tomorrow is another day to excel.”

Like Bosses, I know many of us have worked for CEOs, Elite Leaders. A few world class CEOs: Ursula Burns of Xerox saved the company from Bankruptcy—known as one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women 2015 by Forbes. Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup Co.—She is the 12th leader in the 140-year history of the company. Jonathan Keyser of Keyser, the founder of largest commercial real estate tenant brokerage and business consulting firm in Arizona.


“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy CEO or Boss Guy,” are you a CEO or a Boss? I have found that too many Bosses are masquerading as CEOs. The charade can end. It is up to you. No one is a natural born leader. At every level of leadership, a new skill set must be mastered.

Faking it until you make it is not the right answer if you are a CEO. The ability of the CEO can drive organizations to new and unexpected heights. A Boss, at best, survives rather than thrives. Get some help and get it now.

© 2015 by John Boggs all rights reserved.