Some Truths about Being a Boss

You just got promoted.  Congratulations!  Now you’re in charge.  You’re the boss… Le Grand fromage.  It feels good…and if you’re honest, a little scary.  You’ve read a lot of books about leadership and you have some ideas about what it takes to be a good leader, but now you have to put them into action.  That’s the hard part.

So, how can I help?

Well, I can toss out, for your consideration, some simple and practical thoughts about what being a leader is about.  It’s not going to be an exhaustive list of course, but hopefully it will help get you started on the right foot.  So here goes:

You’re not going to “get there” quickly ~ The process of becoming a great boss is a slow one.  In fact, you never really ‘get there’ because with each experience there is something new to learn.   Books on Leadership and other peoples’ advice help, but mostly it is how you interpret, and act on, what you read, see and hear that counts.

Knowing yourself is an important part of leading others ~ One of your jobs as leader will be to build relationships of all kinds and at many levels.  It’s easier to do this if you know yourself well and what you have to offer.  If you are like most people, you will find self-examination tedious, humbling and even exhausting, but once you have a strong grip on who you are, it makes it that much easier to let go of your concerns about yourself and concentrate on other people instead.

Loyalty to the work will more often trump loyalty to you ~ If you think simply being the boss earns you respect and loyalty, you would be wrong.   In these times, when organizations are no longer loyal to their workforces, the expectation of loyalty to any one leader is unrealistic.  Instead, you must find ways to help people find meaning and satisfaction in the work.  Engaging people in accomplishing something bigger than all of you, leads to success in achieving your collective goals and sharing a well-earned sense of pride.  Now that is something worth being loyal to.

Simple messages have more impact than fancy oratory or business-speak ~ The purpose of communication is to achieve mutual understanding not to look good or perfect your oratory skills.  People will appreciate and be more willing to act on simple, clear messages than on those shrouded in the mystery of complicated language.

Power and politics are always in play.  Use them both wisely and with respect ~ Both power and politics are part of organizational life.  As a boss, you will have certain decision-making authority over others.  But don’t confuse this with permission to exercise your will over them.  Power is at its best when shared.  If it is used to manipulate others or to advance the interests of only a few, it becomes something less useful and more destructive.  The bottom line here is: When it comes to power and politics handle with care.

There are always more questions than there are answers ~ If you think that as boss, you will be required to know all the answers, think again.  Those who think they know it all, don’t.  Those who think they should know it all place too much pressure on themselves to solve everyone’s problems. However, if you strive to listen more often than talk and develop your ability to ask powerful questions, you might just be onto something.

Managing emotion is critical to earning credibility with others ~ You will have days when you feel snarky, miserable, angry, or otherwise out of sorts. Hey you’re human.  It happens to even the saints among us.  But your workplace is not the place to ‘vent’. If you do, chances are, you will have bridges to build, or repair.  This takes up time that could be used more positively and productively.  In short, if you want to earn the trust of your colleagues, find ways to manage your negative emotions.  It pays off in the end.

When you are the boss, there is nowhere to hide ~ Not only are you going to make mistakes but other people will too.  As the boss, their mistakes, at some point, will become yours.  That doesn’t mean you absolve them of the consequences of having messed up.  However, it does mean it will be up to you to ensure that those who make them will learn from them.  There is no hiding or finger-pointing here.  Should you be tempted to deflect ultimate blame away from yourself, you will be rewarded with resentment from the very people you wish to engage.


These are some important things to consider when we find ourselves to be the person in charge.  Leadership can look very involved and complex.  At times, it is.  But mostly, it asks us to use our common sense, develop our empathy muscles and simply strive to do the right thing.  In the end that’s what really counts.  That’s what I think anyway.

What do you think?

P.S. If you interested in reading more ‘Truths’ about leadership, you  might consider this:

The Truth about Leadership ~ by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

The Truth About Being a Leader ~ by Dr. Karen Otazo



Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Management, motivating & Inspiring

7 responses to “Some Truths about Being a Boss

  1. Alex Jones

    Leading by example, showing rather than telling.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      That’s an important addition, Alex. Thanks! It reminds me of the importance of ensuring consistency between what we say we’re going to do and what we actually do.

  2. Happy Canada Day and thanks for the great post! To your great list I would add that it’s crucial to know which decisions are yours alone and which would benefit from input from others. Sometimes I asked for input without being clear that it was still my decision in the end. I grew to be much more clear about this which helped my team to know the boundaries of their ideas. I always heard them and did my best to see things from different perspectives and then had to weigh varying points of view in making a decision.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Jamie ~ Yes! Decisions are reached in many ways. Things go a lot more smoothly when everyone understands who is going to have the last word in any given situation. Thank you for that and for the good Canada Day wishes! 🙂

  3. terry

    I enjoyed reading this post and the previous one about civility. I agree with these wise tips and think these actions help workers and managers obtain and keep jobs. However, as in the bullying scenario, the other actions seem to get the most attention at times. Fortunately, there are often checks and balances in systems to keep personalities and egos in line with organizational goals. In my experience, problems occur when external or internal forces cause boundaries and goals to get out of focus. Then you have to hang in there, reset your sites, or adjust your sails. Hopefully, the more positive behaviors prevail for better views and more favorable winds.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Terry ~ you make a good point and that is how easy it is to go “off course”. There are always course corrections to be made because we can never predict exactly what is going to happen to shift matters to the left or right of the target. Thank you for adding that and for coming by. A Pleasure, as always 🙂

  4. Pingback: Some Truths about Being a Boss | digitalNow |

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