Common belief says that to be a leader, you must simply hold the highest position in the organization, or is it?
A leader, however, is far more than his/her position. Those who found their own businesses have a vision of the organizational culture, a powerful value proposition, and a clear strategy going forward. Therefore, being a leader does not come by carrying a high position. What actually comes by holding a higher position is the notorious title “boss”. On the one hand, a bad boss is a high-ranked individual whose single mission is to command and control employees. On the other, a good boss is also a leader, who uses his/her position to build trust, communicate success, help employees develop and many more. To be a good boss or a great leader, one has to ensure that employees value his/her decision.
Hence there is a notable difference between a boss and a leader. John C. Maxwell said it in a sentence
“The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm”.
This supports our above statement that a good boss is a great leader and a great leader knows how to motivate employees towards a common goal or vision.
Therefore, we have written this article to help you answer the question "how to be a good boss?". And, we will be using examples to help you visualize the various scenarios.
How to be a good boss: 6 useful tips
After careful research, we have selected six (6) useful tips on how you can become a good boss that knows how to communicate a vision and motivate employees to reach their potential.
Communicate to build trust
Communication is the key to a productive organizational culture. Communication builds trust. And trust is the pillar that supports a business. Building trust is never easy but it is the one thing that differs a good boss from a bad one.
The best way to win trust is, to be honest, and fair. If you are honest, fair and critical with your employees than you will be perceived as a team player, someone the business acknowledges and respects. Working on building trust will also help you set an example, as you represent a model of what the company values and supports.
Most importantly, trust shows that you are empathic. An empathic leader recognizes and discusses the problems and fears that employees are facing, but also their innovative ideas that could grow the business. In one of their reports, the Research Management Review conducted a case study of a new boss who had recently joined a small business.
The report highlights how upon arrival, he had noticed how staff were exhausting themselves across redundant and unnecessary tasks. Accordingly, the boss took the initiative to introduce a more efficient process that aimed to reduce the time wasters. The change had quickly gained the support of all, and the improvements that came as a result of that resolution started having an impact on the trust that employees had to the new boss.
This is an example that shows how to be a good boss with great intentions.
Support the professional development of employees
On first thought, the idea of training employees may seem counter-intuitive. After all, why should the business spend resources developing an employee who will eventually leave?
This assumption is wrong on many levels. First, it is built around the assumption that employees leave organizations at some point in time. Recent scholars have looked at the impact of three different leadership styles on employee retention. Their results showed that ‘transformational leadership’, or in our terms great leadership, is the best practice leaders can follow to retain upwards 90% of their employees - which is higher than the industry average of 70-80%.
Second, in a highly competitive market, employee development programs have become the best way to attract prospects with high-potential. A great leader has the ability to recognize potential and utilize it for the greater good of the business. Running on the belief that training will increase employee turnover will build a team that lacks motivation and skill.
For these two reasons, it is essential for a good boss to encourage employees to gain new skills that will help them accomplish higher ranks in the future. For example, a construction worker who has the opportunity to manage a group of construction workers will eventually gain the management skills necessary to be eligible for a promotion.
Consequently, an employee who sees development opportunities is more likely to stay in the business that one who doesn’t. Ultimately, it falls upon the leader to establish processes and programs that create that progressive culture within the small business. We understand that there are downfalls to promotion but that we plan to discuss in a separate article.
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Delegate first, work second
Oh, letting go of responsibilities is one of the hardest things to do as a leader. Yet, it’s a crucial skill that differentiates a great leader from a casual one.
A great leader knows the importance of time, and more importantly, they know how to manage it. They are not expected to devote time and energy to tasks that are redundant and unnecessary. When we say redundant, we are referring to tasks like scheduling, preparing timesheets, micro-managing employees and more. Instead, they focus on promoting a productive culture that leads to business growth. To relate, the president of Prepared to Lead, a leading consulting firm says:
“Most people will tell you they are too busy to delegate — that it’s more efficient for them to just do it themselves”.
Therefore, if you notice yourself working for long hours, while your staff is only fulfilling a regular schedule then there is a problem that needs to get addressed. Time management skills are not skills one is born with – they are acquired through time. Every good boss knows the importance of support and trust. In fact, a lot of bosses are shifting towards virtual assistance when it comes to redundant tasks. Digital time clocks, otherwise known as time tracking apps are automation tools that enable businesses to minimize time spent on redundant tasks and maximize time spent on high-priority tasks.
Act as a partner – not a boss
To run a successful company leaders have to be seen as part of the team. Similarly, leaders have to acknowledge employees as part of the company’s success.
By acknowledgment, we are talking about certain actions that envoke a sense of belonging within employees. Whether it is a simple “Thank You, for completing a task” or an end-of-year bonus that rewards high-performing tasks, creating a friendlier relationship with employees is detrimental to success. A study of the Journal for Labor Economics found that supervisors (or leaders) can increase productivity by 50% by simply developing a better perception and relationship of employees. Another study suggests that such relationships also contribute towards employees' careers by increasing annual salary by 8-12%.
Being a leader comes with great responsibility and authority. It is this authority that creates distance between management and employees. And, realistically speaking, authority and power are the two characteristics of a leader that almost everyone wants.
Identifying the goals of employees within the organization is the first step towards helping them achieve those goals. As a friend and a leader, you can fulfill the need for power by delegating, the need for acknowledgment by rewarding and the need for success by training. If an authoritative figure, such as yourself acts as a partner, rather than an authoritative figure than you can expect employees to sacrifice more hours and energy on the work that they do.
Set expectations for employees
Ignoring employee expectations is like setting a fire on a house filled with oil. Without a purpose or understanding, a business transforms into a jungle, a disorganized entity where anything but success is possible.
As such, as a boss, manager, supervisor, executive or any other higher-up, one of the most important conversations you will have with employees is while communicating expectations. At this point, you will have to have an overall understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of all your employees and a strategic plan that categorizes these employees into groups.
For example, John is creative and he has extensive knowledge of programming but he lacks managerial skills. Kate, on the other hand, has worked for countless years supervising teams of designers, programmers and content creators. Let’s also assume that they have been able to showcase these skills while working for you as well. This information should be sufficient for you to have an overall understanding of how to set the expectation for each employee. Not just top-level expectations, think of specifics, like training programs, expected hours of work, efficiency, and more - all of which will eventually lead to a promotion of some sort.
A small business culture where employees don’t have expectations will initially cause tension between employees, who end up forming alliances that fight one another. A chaotic culture that lacks purpose will eventually drag the business to the ground. Accordingly, as a good boss, you are expected to avoid this scenario at all costs, and it’s quite easy, just sit and talk to your employees.
Employees can’t assign expectations to themselves, nor can they assume their productivity levels. The role of the leader is to effectively communicate expectations and productivity levels to employees. By doing so, the leader enables them to find alternative solutions to their problems. Just as Steve Jobs of Apple said:
“Employees don’t need to be managed, they are self-managed. Give them a purpose and let them find a solution to the problem.”