It’s safe to say we’ve all had that one boss, the one that makes you question the decision-making skills of authority figures everywhere, the one whose arrogance is only topped by his/her need to be unquestioned and respected—and the one whose actions set all the wrong examples.
So how do you avoid becoming that person?
Fewer of us have ever encountered truly good bosses, though most have probably had at least one or two good experiences. And the good ones—the truly awe-inspiring individuals that few of us have ever encountered—make it look so darn easy. But in reality, it’s a lot harder than you might think to consistently inspire respect and loyalty. We all say that one day, when we’re the boss, things will be different- right? But how do you actually make that happen?
Below are some useful tips on how to become the boss you’ve always wanted to be.
- Be a leader, not a boss. In reality, a boss and a leader are fairly synonymous but the words have different connotations—and that difference is an unmistakably important nuance: choice vs. force. A boss is an overlord, a dictator—someone who owns you or your time for a while and seeks to enforce a certain reality upon you. In contrast, a leader is someone whose choices and mandates you trust. Maybe you’re there because you have to be—we are all slaves to our paychecks to some extent—but the forerunning thought in your brain about a leader is that you can trust him or her to make good decisions, to lead by example, and to have your best interests at heart.
- Show, don’t tell. This phrase is well-known to writers, but managers, bosses, and leaders everywhere can learn a few lessons from the concept. It’s easy to tell people what you plan to do, to make big, grand speeches about a vision or a path, to attempt to inspire with presentation and gusto, but those will only take you so far. Yes, it’s important to speak and communicate effectively—for a boss, it’s essential—but actions speak best. So yes, outline your plans, but keep it brief and simple. Less is more. Observe more than you critique, ask more than you tell, and do more than you expect others to do. These are the actions of a leader who is worth following.
- Know your employees and their jobs. A recent study completed by researchers from three different universities found that employee satisfaction actually quadrupled when their direct boss could actually do their jobs if needed. The concept doesn’t seem all that far-fetched—shouldn’t the person critiquing and gauging your performance understand all the factors of your work intimately? Reality, however, shows that, especially with larger companies, managers often don’t know all the details of how their employees complete their work. In this case, take the time to ask. Even if it means humbling yourself down to spending a few days or a few weeks learning from each of your employees, the interaction will both improve your knowledge of the work they do, how they do it, and what skills they can offer, but also of who they are and what their needs might be. The experience will be both challenging and rewarding, for newer and more experienced managers alike.
By making these tips the principles of your foundation as a leader, you will create a work environment that is open, respectful, and positive. After all, respect must be earned and it is a two-way street. Bosses who do not respect and value their employees will always have a hard time keeping the good ones.
About the Author – Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .