When you enter a new workplace for the very first time, you quickly get a sense of what life will be like for you there. As you meet your new coworkers, you’ll quickly develop a feel for what the general tone or atmosphere of your work environment is like. Having annoying co-workers, tedious assignments, and/or long commutes can make work less pleasant, but none of these factors matter as much as the quality of management you have. All of the drawbacks can be tolerable if you are fortunate enough to work under a boss that knows how to properly lead a team of people.
By contrast, having a bad boss can be an utter nightmare – many people reading this piece can attest to that from experience. No matter how good the pay is or how great your co-workers are, having to deal with poor management can make doing your job unbearable. The source of poor management almost always lies in a lack of strong, effective leadership. Disorganization, micromanagement, excessive bureaucracy, favoritism, a lack of ownership: these traits all stem from a lack of effective leadership.
If you are fortunate enough to have a boss that doesn’t suffer from any of these defects, that is a sign that they know how to lead, as opposed to manage. Bossing people around and leading them are two entirely different things, and the following traits are shown by bosses that understand how to be leaders.
1) They bring out the best in people… Nobody is great at everything. As seemingly simple as this axiom is, some bosses really don’t understand how to play to people’s strengths. If you’ve ever dealt with an employee who was put in a position they know nothing about, you understand how frustrating it can be for both parties. This doesn’t mean that an employee should be pigeon-holed into one set of tasks, but an effective leader knows how to identify a person’s strengths and leverage them to maximum effect. By placing the best people in their respective positions, they give them the ability to truly shine. In the long run, this will benefit both the worker and the business.
2) They foster a sense of community over one of divisiveness… Bad bosses play favorites. This kind of management undermines employee relationships, reduces morale, and harms productivity in the long run. A leader does not give choice jobs and promotions to people they like – they do so based only on merit. By treating everybody equally and commanding the same kind of expectation from everybody involved, people will begin to see and treat themselves as a single, cohesive unit. A leader knows how to unite and move in one direction. A house divided cannot stand, and a business without any sense of unity or direction will fail.
3) They promote transparency… Understandably, bosses cannot give employees personal or sensitive details pertaining to people or certain business decisions. However, this does not preclude them from communicating new changes to their team and accepting their input. Bosses that make decisions with seemingly no justification come off as shady and untrustworthy. By contrast, a boss that openly explains the reasons for decisions and changes will demonstrate that they see themselves as a member of a team, rather than the person who just bosses people around. People want to feel valued and included, and open lines of communication are key to making that happen.
4) They give people a sense of ownership and purpose… Every employee has tasks that they are required to complete, depending on what their job description entails. The thing that micromanaging bosses fail to understand is that most people take a lot of pride in what they do. Some employees are content to coast along and do the bare minimum, but many others want to do more with what they have. An effective leader knows when to back off and let a talented employee do what they do best, with minimal interference. This shows to that person that their boss trusts them to do the right thing, and this will motivate them to work harder and better.
The complete opposite of this is micromanaging. All that strategy does is emphasize that you don’t think they are capable of doing even the simplest tasks without direct supervision. This management style only succeeds in producing miserable, frustrated employees who don’t see any point in working harder than they have to.