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On Bosses & Being Bad


Source: Forbes

Source: Forbes

Why are some bosses so bloody hopeless?

I recently read Guy Kawasaki’s excellent book “Enchantment” (Portfolio/Penguin 2012) where he included a list prepared by Bob Sutton of Stanford University which Kawasaki haad sourced from Sutton’s book “Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to be the Best…and Learn from the Worst”.

The list makes for interesting reading when you have a role that requires you to lead (and that includes in your family).

Note that I have Australianised some of the spelling but the list is as detailed in Kawasaki’s book (p. 159 on).

  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 the 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 too much.  My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little bit of 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 assetive 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.

Having experienced (and perpetrated) a number of things that go directly against the wisdom contained in Sutton’s words, I am grateful for the insight and clarity of his thinking.  We need to understand how our actions as bosses/leaders impact those around us and therefore our businesses (or other organisations where we have influence) and our families.

Striving to be a good boss is a never-ending challenge.  It’s a challenge that can be confronting, but, at the end of the day, is very rewarding when you get it more right than it has been!

Don’t be a bad boss – it’s no fun and you’ll drive out all the good that your people want to bring to work every day.

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