Great Bosses, Great Lessons: What Leaders Can Teach You
Oct 3, 2023
Love, Fear, and Respect
One of the most impactful lessons I learned from my very first boss was the importance of earning respect before expressing love and using hierarchy and fear selectively. This lesson has stuck with me throughout my career. A manager must first earn the respect of their team members through their capability and ability to help solve problems. Once respect is established, a manager can express love and support, helping their team members grow and prosper. Respect is very important for leaders.
Connecting with all Levels of the Organization
One of my bosses, a factory manager, taught me the importance of connecting with all levels of the organization. He made it a point to know the names and families of every single worker in the factory. By walking the shop floor every day and engaging in conversations with everyone he met, he gained a deep understanding of the people he worked with. This not only helped build strong relationships but also drove performance to exceptional levels. As a leader, it is essential to go beyond knowing just your immediate team and build stronger bonds throughout the organization.
Effective Time Management
Another valuable lesson I learned from one of my bosses was the importance of managing time effectively. This boss had clockwork precision when it came to managing their time, and they expected the same discipline from their managers. They would arrive at the office before time every day and finish their work on time. Meetings would start and end promptly. Latecomers would face consequences. While we may have resented this strict approach at times, I now realize how it can help drive work-life balance and result in organized and result-oriented meetings. Keeping a fixed schedule ensures that time is not wasted and managers become more effective in their roles.
Getting to the Depth
During my first confirmation interview, a technical director asked me detailed questions about the machines I was supposed to maintain. I couldn't answer them, but instead of reprimanding me, the director took the time to explain the workings of the equipment. This experience taught me the importance of going to the depth of issues to solve problems and improve performance. It is crucial to ask "why" repeatedly until you reach the root cause of a problem. By digging deep and understanding the underlying issues, leaders can make more informed decisions and drive meaningful change.
Moving Beyond Tasks to Strategies
One of my bosses taught me that it is important to move beyond discussing tasks and focus on strategies. While it is essential to understand the details, it is equally important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Many managers get caught up in solving immediate issues, which can lead to an activity trap. Instead, leaders should develop a long-term vision for their role and focus on strategic planning. By thinking beyond day-to-day tasks, leaders can drive significant growth and development in their teams and organizations.
Trusting Your People
After experiencing a major failure, one of my bosses put their trust in me and gave me a significant role to handle. This act of trust had a profound impact on me. It not only guided me on what success would look like but also gave me the space to grow and learn from my mistakes. This boss truly lived by the value of trust. By not micro-managing me, they allowed me to take calculated risks and make decisions on my own. This trust instilled an enormous amount of self-confidence in me and helped me discover my own leadership style.
Celebrating Success and Having Fun
While many of my bosses were focused on technical aspects, one of my business leaders made it a point to celebrate success and have fun. Despite work stresses, they would take the time to unwind, relax, and connect with their team members on a personal level. This simple act of celebration and fun created a positive work environment and motivated the team to achieve more. It taught me the importance of recognizing and appreciating the efforts of others. By celebrating success frequently, leaders can create a resilient and motivated team.
One of the crucial lessons I learned from my bosses was the importance of setting boundaries. When leaders are too lenient or unclear about expectations, it becomes difficult to establish a productive work environment. Setting clear boundaries from the beginning helps employees understand what is expected of them and ensures a secure and focused workplace. Employees thrive when they know what is acceptable and what the consequences are for not meeting expectations. By setting boundaries, leaders create a sense of structure and provide a roadmap for success.
Teaching and Sharing Knowledge
Leadership is not just about giving orders; it is about teaching and sharing knowledge. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my bosses was the importance of investing time in sharing expertise with team members. By taking the time to explain why things are done in a certain way, leaders empower their team members to act more effectively and encourage them to suggest better ways of doing things. Teaching goes beyond just imparting knowledge; it fosters a culture of continuous learning and growth.
Leaders should encourage healthy debates and embrace disagreements. A team that is afraid to voice their opinions or suggest new ideas becomes stagnant. By creating an environment where team members feel comfortable challenging ideas and providing different perspectives, leaders foster creativity and find innovative solutions to complex problems. Disagreements should be seen as opportunities for growth and learning. Leaders should be open to different viewpoints and willing to consider alternative approaches.
The lessons I have learned from my great bosses have shaped my approach to leadership and management. These lessons have taught me the importance of earning respect, connecting with all levels of the organization, managing time effectively, getting to the depth of issues, moving beyond tasks to strategies, trusting my team members, celebrating success, setting boundaries, teaching and sharing knowledge, and embracing disagreements. Want to learn directly from a variety of skilled bosses? Check out our Executive Leadership course.
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