There are two types of leaders:
First, are leaders who build the entire team directly under themselves. They’re the captains. When they’re around, teams thrive—and when they’re not, teams are aimless and misdirected (because that’s the dynamic they’ve built). They are still great, effective leaders, but team success is entirely dependent upon their involvement.
Next, are leaders who build organizations around skill sets, habits, disciplines, and best practices. They’re involved, and everyone knows they’re at the helm, but the success of the team is not entirely dependent upon them—because they’ve built something much different. They build a culture, not a hierarchy.
The best bosses are culture creators. They’re far less interested in being “seen” as the high-and-mighty leader, and much more focused on creating an environment that allows others to thrive, take on responsibility, and ultimately grow organically.
So, how do they do that?
Effective offices have routines, just like effective people have routines. There’s a Monday morning meeting, and a Friday closing meeting. There’s a mid-week standup. Whatever your routine is, as long as it creates both a sense of community and accountability, it’ll be effective. The purpose of routine is to remove the question of, “What do we do?” Once that’s resolved, all team members can focus on more important tasks.
If you have an office full of finger-pointers, no one will ever learn and grow. This starts at the top. If a leader cannot take accountability, then his managers don’t learn how to take accountability, and so on. This has to be part of your culture—and great bosses know this. It’s a matter of showing, not “talking,” and they teach the rest by first taking accountability themselves.
So much of teamwork comes down to listening. People will go through hell for you if they feel heard along the way. Great bosses don’t just tell people what to do. They listen. They take time along the way to address issues, concerns, feelings of unrest, etc. And in doing so, they teach others (again, through their actions) to do the same. This creates a culture that makes people feel empowered and safe to share what they think and feel, which ultimately is great for the organization as a whole.
There’re few things as toxic as a distrustful work environment where people talk poorly about each other behind closed doors or in passing. In order to be an effective team, people have to feel that they can trust each other. A great boss sets this standard from the beginning. He or she guards that trust, and takes extreme caution in upholding the standard across the board. Nobody does great work in an environment where they don’t feel emotionally safe.
5. Work Ethic
“All talk” organizations do a fantastic job at dancing around and proclaiming all the wonderful things they do, but lack the discipline to sit down and actually move the needle. A great boss does not believe his or her own hype. He or she knows the value of staying humble and focused, and place far more energy and focus on setting the pace for quality work ethic in the office. Your work ethic is everything. Otherwise, you’re nothing but a headline in a fleeting press release.
6. Positive Feedback
There’s a difference between a boss that picks work apart (or you, personally) just for the sake of it, and that same exercise being done in a constructive, helpful manner. Great bosses do this masterfully. They can provide feedback, push you, be tough on you, know just how far to test you without breaking you. And that’s crucial in order to get the best out of people. A great boss is like a great coach. There’re times when you will feel extremely frustrated, even emotional, and you will feel like they are being tough on you for no reason. But down the line, you'll pick your head up and you'll realize the lesson they were trying to teach you. And if they’ve done it right, you’ll appreciate them for it.
You spend more time with the people you work with than you do your own family. Great bosses don’t exploit this—they find ways to make that time investment worthwhile. They see you as family and they treat you like family. They create a culture for the organization where people look forward to seeing one another. It’s not just “an office.” It’s a workspace with people you are proud to call your “family,” and where co-workers say, “I love the people I work with!”
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