Aug. 10, 2012

The Two Things You Have to Do to Be a Great Boss

What makes a great boss great?

In my career, I've seen enough managers to lose count. Many of them were not so good, some were OK, and a few were great. That’s enough data to draw conclusions: what makes a great boss great?

It's not charisma. I did meet a few charismatic leaders, and I met some who would have gone unnoticed at any party. Neither stage presence nor the lack of it are crucial.

It's not vision. I've met leaders who could see the big picture, and others who just asked the right people for the right answer. You don't have to be a Steve Jobs to be great.

It's definitely not attitude. For good leaders, an “I am the boss” posture works - sometimes. For bad leaders, it just turns comedy into tragedy.

The great bosses I met share just two habits. One: they share their objectives with people and then get out of their way. Two: they help people from the sidelines, removing obstacles between them and the objectives.

I've never met a great boss who didn't do both things, and I've never met a less-than-great boss who did. That's all it takes, and nothing less will do: if you want to be a great boss, point people at the target and help them by removing obstacles from their path. It's that simple.

As ever, simple is not easy. You get paid a premium for a reason, sir/ma'am. Good luck.

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Paolo Perrotta

I'm a freelance coder, agile coach and public speaker. I also wrote the "Metaprogramming Ruby" book for the Pragmatic Programmers.
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Image of paoloperrotta

Paolo Perrotta

I'm a freelance coder, agile coach and public speaker. I also wrote the "Metaprogramming Ruby" book for the Pragmatic Programmers.

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