Free Leadership Learning Tool: Learn By Comparing Your Bosses
Leadership Lesson: Use your own life and work history as a study in leadership development, by analyzing all your leaders to date, taking into account what made them either effective or ineffective.
Leadership development is not only learned from theories in books, or reading about leaders or those we admire from afar. It is also learned from what and who is around us. It’s not about waiting until we’re in a leadership position to make a difference. There are plenty of things to learn and marks to make before anyone officially designates or considers us a leader.
So how do you learn from your environment? How do you learn from those around you?
Who do you look to to learn about the best (or worst) attributes to absorb (or avoid) in order to be a great influence and example for others?
Think about your previous leaders or bosses. If you think back, knowing what you know now — what you’ve learned in your experiences since then — you can probably pick out and break down what made each of your bosses either great or lacking.
Furthermore, have you ever considered comparing them and analyzing why one style or approach might have worked when compared to another?
So where the post Everyone Can Teach You Something, If you Just Watch How They Carry Themselves covered how you should analyze a leader, this post covers how you should compare leaders and what you should take away from that comparison and review.
For the great bosses, what was it that made them effective or shine, empowering the environment?
For the lacking bosses, what was it that turned you off from them or impacted the environment in a negative manner?
Here is a list of a few things to consider when thinking about how leaders impact their environments and you:
How did they make you feel?
Hopefully they made you feel as if anything you wanted to achieve, within reason and with proper preparation, was possible. They didn’t suppress any ambition you might have had for yourself, but could have reined you in to keep you focused, grounded, and realistic.
Did they make your team feel like a team?
It’s imperative that a leader demonstrate to their team, as they would an individual, what the resources are that are at their disposal. The resources may exist for each team member in realizing what they’re capable of within themselves while also leading each team member to understand the resources and strengths which can be derived from the other members.
How did they speak about you and/or your team?
How a leader speaks about you in front of others or to others while you’re not around is indicative of their leadership. Integrity is of utmost importance and that exists in how bosses address you regardless of who is around and watching.
Were they good at acknowledging you both as an individual and part of a team?
It’s important that leaders address you properly face-to-face, whether alone or with others. They need to demonstrate honesty, respect, courtesy, and trust, among many other things, to you.
How did they work with lateral positions?
Leaders need to make sure they are setting the example for how to work with all types of people, positions, and personality types. They also need to demonstrate how to work with lateral colleagues so that they can show the rest of us how we should work with others on the smallest to the biggest details of the work interaction.
How did they speak to and act around their bosses?
A great example of leadership can be found in how a leader speaks with their boss. They need to demonstrate that they understand the hierarchy of the organization without forfeiting their free-thinking and becoming a yes-woman or man. They should serve as an intermediary between those they lead and those they follow.
How did they convey their knowledge or technical expertise to you and to others?
Leaders aren’t necessarily the ones with the best knowledge and technical background. Mere technical know-how is not the litmus test of leadership. But one very valuable attribute of a leader is how they take on and disseminate knowledge. With that in mind, how did your leaders choose to share, continue learning, and refine their knowledge, while teaching others what they could, including best practices?
When you made a mistake, how did they work with you to rectify it?
Leaders need to see the importance of constructive feedback and accountability. They need to understand that growing and developing the ability of their staff is the ultimate goal of their work. The work of their staff, in most cases, is a reflection of how they encourage, enable, and empower their staff.
Were you better for having worked under that leader?
Did the leader support and teach you by helping you realize and embolden your strengths while working to reverse your weaknesses? The same way we should always leave something – a project, workplace, or assignment – better than we found it, so should leaders leave those who follow them better for having worked with them.
Notice that none of these questions had anything to do with a leader’s level of success in the workplace, the industry, or the mission in the environment. They had everything to do with how they harnessed their resources, especially the human resources around them, and nothing to do with the end result. They spoke to the means, not the ends.
The questions were posed this way because there’s a good chance that, depending on what the answers were to each, someone could possibly predict, with some accuracy, what a leader’s success rate would be depending on the answer.
To be clear, success does not only mean what is seen in the end of the effort – the goal or project completion, for instance – but it also takes into account the success of the ongoing environment. This means to ask, How did the leader treat, foster, and encourage the environment?
Just because success might have been achieved outwardly – a sales number or landing a particular client – it doesn’t mean that the ultimate success was reached.
The ultimate success is achieving goals and having everyone in agreement that, to the best to everyone’s knowledge, all the best resources were used and that nothing was left on the table.
So, for you, what do you see looking backward? You may have survived a poor work environment or felt sad leaving a great leader, but that doesn’t mean those experiences should stay in the past.
Learn from your past – the good and the bad. Your great leaders and poor leaders – what did you learn from them and how did their results differ?
Look for these kinds of examples in the world. You can learn from so much which is at your disposal.
For yourself, correct and improve upon the poor examples, but absorb and refine the best examples.
Take the experiences with each boss with you. All the strengths and all the weaknesses you’ve collected and retained will serve you wisely if you use them together strategically — utilizing the strengths to overcome challenges while using the weaknesses to determine your limits and what pitfalls to avoid.
Selectively utilizing certain attributes together can prepare you in your strategy going forward.
So…What About You?
- Have you compared bosses you’ve had to-date to determine what each might have been effective at or lacking in?
- What have you taken with you from each of your bosses? What did you learn from each?
- What pitfalls might you have avoided due to what you learned from your previous bosses?