Leon Gettler: How to be a great boss

Being a great boss is all about balancing management and leadership. Good managers get their employees doing what they have always done, but faster and cheaper with fewer defects. Leaders are there to set directions. Managers are there to make sure the right things are being done, leaders are there to make sure things are right. Leaders know where they want to go and give managers the tools to get there.

The best bosses know how to combine both. In my piece here, I talk about 11 ways to be a better boss.  A good boss allows mistakes, gets everyone in the company to provide ideas, sets up systems that generate ideas, sets goals and measures them, holds all serious conversations face to face instead of hiding behind email, encourages some entrepreneurialism within the organisation, lets people come and go as they need to, keeps the organisational structure as flat as possible to ensure that there aren’t too many people between the boss and everyone else, and makes sure everything is as open and honest as possible.

How many managers can say they do all that?

Bob Sutton, one of the most widely read experts on leadership and bad bosses says good bosses have to go by 12 rules:

  1. I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
  2. My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.
  3. Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day.
  4. One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.
  5. My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my people from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe — and to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well.
  6. I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realise that I am often going to be wrong.
  7. I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my people to do the same thing.
  8. One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organisation — is “what happens after people make a mistake?”
  9. Innovation is crucial to every team and organisation. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too.
  10. Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.
  11. How I do things is as important as what I do.
  12. Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk — and not realising it.

What makes a good boss? What would you suggest?

Follow Leon on Twitter:  www.twitter.com/leongettler

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