During my thirty-five years of employment, I had eleven bosses. Most were great. However, a few were not.
MJ’s wise council got me through the not-so-great ones. She told me to carefully watch the bosses I disliked and figure out why, and then make sure I never exhibited those behaviors with people that answered to me.
It was good advice. In fact, it works the other way around as well.
What makes an exceptional boss? How might we model those behaviors?
There’s a big difference between managers and leaders. Excellent bosses always brought out the best in me. Mediocre bosses focused on my weaknesses. More times than not, it was all about them. Exceptional bosses concentrated on my strengths. They recognized that success depended on building team members’ confidence. As such, they went out of their way to make sure I felt valued.
The same characteristics apply to the people who had the greatest influence on my life outside of work.
Six behaviors come to mind:
1. They set a strong example
2. They placed kindness ahead of criticism.
3. They focused on positive attributes and were generous with praise.
4. They provided honest and caring feedback, even when it was difficult to hear.
5. Rather than making demands, they asked how they could be of assistance.
6. They made sure I knew how important I was to them.
The last point is an important one. There’s probably no better way to make sure our lives matter than to make sure the lives of the people around us matter!
When I was young, I assumed intelligence and accomplishments got people promoted to the “big chair.” However, when I ultimately rose to the level of hiring bosses myself, I found that intelligence and personal achievements were merely table stakes. Exceptional candidates focused on others rather than themselves. People wanted to work for them.
Looking back, I learned a lot from the bosses I disliked. Fortunately, the negative role models were few and far between.
Reflecting on those days provides yet another example that our greatest impact in life points away from “Self.”
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