m The Boss of the Year Leadership Award
          Recognizing and rewarding workplace leadership

"A leader’s role is to raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there".  David R. Gergen

Are there such workplace leaders in South Africa?

Are they recognised?

Are they rewarded?

The answer is yes – It’s the job of The Boss of the Year Award to ensure this is done. 

l What the Award stands for

The Boss of the Year® is an award dedicated to seeking out the leaders of the South African workplace. 

It identifies
the many unsung heroes and heroines who use their positions of power to empower others in achieving career success.

It recognises
excellence in people leadership.  It rewards the very people who know the importance of rewarding others for a job well done. It creates mentors for sound leadership. 

Above all, it pays tribute to those who understand that the success of their staff is in direct proportion to their own success as leaders.

l It's Origin

Boss  of the Year®, an Award launched in 1990, pioneered a leadership “conscience” and “ conscientiousness” at a time when in South Africa (and not only), leadership was synonymous with the head of government or of the national sports teams! Back then, who would deem the head of a company to be a “hero” figure and role-model? Only if he (or she) was a business leader making huge profits. And the Rands and Cents leadership was not what workplace leadership was about.


We believe that the Award was a precursor to the concept of “human” capital – and that handling this capital correctly was a prime concern. Twenty two  years ago, this was pretty radical thinking, but we were to find South Africans in leadership positions with the correct attitudes and attributes.

The job  to be done by the Award, was to draw them out – show them off – and start a concerted process of building a culture of hero-finding throughout organisations, with the spin-off of creating more of the kind!

l The types of bosses it looks for

It is neither saints nor goodie-goodies BOTY was looking for – but real men and women, who tried harder to make sense for others, make work more meaningful, make workplaces safer, and open-up opportunities for as many as possible…

By providing opportunities for them to become known and rewarded, the Boss of the Year® creates a community of workplace leadership heroes and role models.

We have watched some values remain constant and some new ones emerge; we have watched hierarchies flatten and the mergers and acquisitions create interesting leadership challenges; this Award has also been an interesting observer and participant in the transition of the old to the new South Africa and the emergence of a new workplace ethos …and all the way, in every way the Award has relentlessly sought and identified those men and women who steadfastly kept their colleagues and their employees motivated, inspired and geared for success. 

l Why the Boss of the Year® Leadership Award was founded

It’s common knowledge that leadership determines winning nations and winning businesses, and that it stimulates growth and prosperity for all.

The Award has in fact pioneered leadership awareness and has sensitized the marketplace to good leadership practices, and has thus become an agent of best practice in leadership in South Africa.

 From the outset the aim of the Award was to achieve 4 key objectives


1. Introduce the concept of leader beyond the spheres of politics and sport

2. Discover the criteria for what REALLY makes a good boss by asking the workers and not the theorists

3. Promote good leadership practices by identifying and rewarding those incumbents who exemplified and embodied the necessary attributes and skills

4. Fast track leadership consciousness  among workplace leaders.
If on one level the Boss of the Year® Award is about leadership in the workplace, on another it is essentially about looking

for heroes; many of them unsung heroes and heroines found in organizations everywhere. By providing opportunities for them to become known and rewarded it is creating a new kind of hero and role model.

l Why the Boss of the Year® Award keeps the word "Boss" in it 

The decision two decades ago to use this word was based on what is still valid today: It is the only word that has meaning for all levels of employees.

Both people at grassroots or in the upper eschelons of corporate, in conversation, refer to their superior as the “boss”.

Equally, it is the only  is the only term which is a common denominator for those whose job title signifies a position of being in charge of an organisation, a team, a department or shopfloor.
The word boss as a noun simply means person who is a leader; takes the lead; holds a leading position.

Words carry emotions and not everybody sees the word boss as outdated or derogatory. Boss remains a respectful way of addressing a person to acknowledge that person's leadership or authority.

For those who argue that the word boss carries the wrong connotation, the same would apply to the following words:

·  manager: a boxer has a "manager"; employees are not boxers

·  supervisor: sounds autocratic, as a child needs an "adult supervisor"

·  team-leader: sounds odd and he doesn't really "lead", sounds like the army


The argument becomes valid if:
(1) people today still think of it in Afrikaans terms as ‘bass’, referring to the apartheid period in history when people of colour were expected to use it to infer their inferior rank in life – which is no longer the case.

(2) boss is used as a verb, which is not the case in the Boss of the year Award, where it is a noun.


 l Origin of the word BOSS

Some authorities claim it originated in Egypt about 5200 B.C.; others, in Greece during the sixth century B.C.
The most reliable sources agree that it originated  in the time of battles during Rome's Punic Wars against Carthage (264-146 B.C.).
Soldiers selected a small stone (called a "leader") and threw it first.
Then larger stones would be thrown at the "leader," and the stone coming closest to it would score.
The game provided exercise and relaxation for the soldiers. Teams were composed of two, four, six, or eight men, and the score would range from 16 to 24 points per game.

The word for leader  became bottia in Renaissance Latin or Vulgar Latin, meaning boss.
From Vulgar Latin many Romance Languages developed.
Bottia therefore developed into the Old French Boce and Italian Bocce.
Bocce refers to an Italian game of bowls which derived from the essence of ancient  Rome’s soldiers game referred to as above. 

The Dutch form baas derives from base (baes) and appears in English from the 1620s as the standard title of a Dutch ship's captain.

It is also said that the first boss arrived in English-speaking North America on November 28, 1635. This is the entry for that date in the journal of John Winthrop of Massachusetts Bay: "Here arrived a small Norsey bark, of twenty-five tons, sent by the Lords Say, etc., with one Gardiner, an expert engineer or work base, and provisions of all sorts, to begin a fort at the mouth of Connecticut."

That base was the Dutch word we now know as boss. Ironically, boss Gardiner was building a fort to keep out the Dutch, who had settled New Amsterdam (later New York) to the south. But the English language readily admitted the Dutch word. And boss grew in popularity over the years, gradually taking the place of master as the latter became associated with slavery.




Leadership words of wisdom

If your actions
inspire others to
dream more,
learn more,
do more and
become more,
you are a leader.
--John Quincy Adams

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