Good boss, bad boss


Perhaps, I should be amongst the very few individuals, who has had in a career of decades, seventeen bosses, a figure which does include the indirect bosses, comprising the regulators, auditors, etc. And that this was achieved, at different geographic locations, in usually a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic, multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-racial societies.
In casual conversation, when I mention to my colleagues, that in all my career I had not a single ‘bad’ or ‘intolerable’ boss/supervisor, they look at me, with a glint of suspicion, that their eyes and facial expression, reflect. However, only one of those seventeen was not actually ‘bad’ but had some personality traits of intolerable nature; for this piece I will make no more mention of him, to save the positivity of this write-up. Reflecting upon them as individuals, I find several traits that were common to all of them; for example negativity as a characteristic, some possessed but in decent dosage, that did not spoil the compound of the good ingredients, they possessed.
I will attempt to analyze the commonalities between all of them, which will help any reader, to relate to and eventually, also, become a good boss/supervisor of people.
The most striking characteristic of a leader is his/her ability to take complete and full responsibility, for all the action of the teams, they lead. There is no element to shrink either responsibility or accountability. They let the buck, stop at their desks. This approach and attitude helps create an environment, where colleagues were willing, without fear or favor, to embark on taking new challenges in the market with a refreshed look. The workforce was never hesitant to either initiate a new campaign or introduce new concepts, relating to products and services. The Boss, never, indicated any sign of reprisal, for actions that went sour. The visibility of acceptance of responsibility acted as the catalyst, for enhancing confidence in team mates. The fear of being nailed or singled out for any failed ventures was put to death, by the confidence, the supervisors (leader) exuded in his/her interactions with each and everyone in the organization.
I also learnt at their hands, that precision and clarity of purpose, must firstly be established with total faith and then must be converted into an actionable plan. The setting of direction, brought to the table, a unification of efforts for a common objective. Leaders that demonstrate confusion, in their thinking, which inevitably finds a prominent place, in the strategic plan, induce dis-harmony of purpose and hence of action. The goals for each individual must be fixed, in consultation with the constituent, so that there is no room for confusion. The expected out put, should in the very least be quantified and must not reside in the grey area of the unmeasurable. These bosses, always set up for me quantifiable targets for achievements. The goals were always in the realm of achievable and measurable. The message was, as leader, do not anchor in the troubled waters of uncertainty. No fog, should enshroud, the strategy was part of the teaching.
Self confidence was also one common denominator. They trusted their own skills and more importantly all of them, showed through both the unsaid and sometimes publicly, statement of the faith and confidence they had on their ability of their teammates. I also noticed that invariably, they were all well read individuals. They were never hesitant to take a cue or so from what they read or heard. This attitude created a culture of learning amongst all followers. The commitment to look at fresh and newer ways of doing the existing was always encouraged by them. The over-used cliche of ‘thinking out of the box’, I would not like to paste upon their leadership chest; but indeed they had natural incline towards self evaluation, that included re-looking at daily routine practices and policies. The stance was never stagnant but always highly pronounced in the realm of dynamism. Napolean Hill in his book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ writes, “you can be anything you want to be, of only you believe with sufficient conviction and act in accordance with your faith; for whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve”.
As good manager and leaders, these individuals never expressed doubt or misgivings, about their ventures. To the contrary, they exuded amazing confidence, grit and determination- never shy to take calculated risks, never wanting in giving on-spot decisions, requiring the meeting of a predetermined objective and never missing opportunities that dawned on the canvas of life. Take a leap of faith was their common mantra- never petrified in taking bold decisions. Fear of the unknown was always locked up in the backyard of their mind.
Leaders aren’t made or created by mere possession of a thought in business or otherwise. Action is the name of the game. Here, I would like to narrate, how wonderfully one of these bosses stunned me, with his impromptu response‚Ķ as a lead person of a team, designated to develop a ‘strategic document’, while at Hong Kong, I made the presentation on behalf of the team, to him, on the multimedia — he listened attentively, made some contributing observations. Once the presentation was over, and we saw him express by a non-verbal satisfaction at the quality of our vision and the document; all of us were silently celebrating that the assignment was successfully over. He (the boss) pulled the trigger on us and remarked “Good job done. Now go implement it”. Words alone didn’t matter, it was ‘action’ that he conveyed in the most subtle manner that he would ultimately look at to appreciate. Leaders have to be action oriented, with deadlines to meet, as the journey of pursuit continues.
Failure, as an option , did not exist as part of their vocabulary. All impediments were meant to be looked as opportunities for self improvement. Once done, resume the attack of pursuit was their singular approach.
All my bosses, were master trainers. No, they took me to no classroom or seminars with them. Their methodology of imparting training was different and unique. They would always find time to inter act with me on one-on-one basis. During the course of such conversations, they would narrate live examples of managing people and business, all practical, nothing academic. In an extremely muted fashion, they altered my way of thinking – looking for positivity in every negative situation. Remaining calm in the face of extreme provocation. Harboring only noble thoughts for all colleagues. Avoiding nurturing of ill thoughts for all colleagues, despite presence of reasons to do so. The outcome of those interactions were many — all have helped me through my career. Good bosses are ‘good teachers’.
The list of their goodness is exhaustive, no single piece can do justice. However, to end this piece, without mentioning about their “caring” attitude would tantamount to management heresy. All of them, brimming with a sense of inherent nobility, were extremely conscious of their role as not merely bosses/leaders/managers, but were pronounced in their ‘parental’ attitude towards their colleagues — I remained a perceptual beneficiary- this care still comes my way. The word ‘care’ is inadequate to truly capture their sentiments and feelings.
Good bosses, achieve what? Great success in developing cohesive workforce, where negative energy is controlled for burial mostly and where teamwork and celebration of individual success is seen as the success of all constituents. People leave only bad bosses. Good bosses have a strong and wide magnetic field that attracts talent and repels the ill-intentioned. These bosses were islands of excellence glued together by goodness of heart, to make a continent of delight, where their co-workers performed beyond the call. They all lacked envy and jealously. Success of others was their plate of pleasure. ” For this I find, where jealousy is fed, Horn in the mind are worse on the head” (Ben Jonson -1598)
Wishing all readers to make an unquenchable quest to, firstly find good bosses (leaders) and hence become one, for envy, of those who cannot, due to their lack of self restraint and self control over management of negative energy.