“Boss” Redefined: What Makes a Great Modern Business Leader?

It’s been said that 75 percent of U.S. employees leave their job because of issues with superiors or bosses.  Decades ago, when hearing the term “boss,” many would associate the word with a seemingly strict, or even intimidating, individual who simply gives out orders at the office.

Fortunately, this stereotype no longer applies to today’s workforce.

Elegant businessman talking to interviewee


Additionally, delegating tasks is no longer the sole responsibility of one designated individual. Today’s workplace has taken on a more collaborative tone, altogether changing the connotation of the term “boss”.

What has contributed to the redefinition of “bosses”?

Mentor:  Today’s boss is there for his/her employees, ready to challenge, motivate, and advise them on how they can do an excellent job.

Friend:  Being a friend to employees does not mean a boss should stop leading and act like a buddy to his staff. It simply means being supportive to your workers; listening to them when they have concerns and offering appropriate advice if they need it.

Champion:  This type of boss is always rooting for his or her employees. They are constantly encouraging their staff to do a great job; building confidence and autonomy by letting their workers know they believe in their capabilities.

While most of today’s bosses are enhanced versions of bosses during the fifties, sixties, and seventies, the above-mentioned statistics prove that there are still leaders who need to improve their employee-management skills.

What are some negative leadership actions that increase employee turnover?

They do not provide clear direction. Many managers tend to make every task a priority. This approach only confuses your employees, and they will eventually come to believe that there are no priorities. Unfortunately, they will also feel as if they have not accomplished anything even if they have successfully completed a task or achieved a goal.

They do not show they care about their employees. If a manager wants to have a successful professional relationship with his or her employees, it’s important that they view their staff as individuals. You don’t have to be their confidante, yet you should have a basic understanding of who they are, beyond work. For example: Which of your employees have school-aged children, if they are caring for an ailing relative, going to school, etc. Knowing certain personal aspects about your employees will make you more sensitive and responsive to their needs as individuals.

They do not trust their employees. All managers should trust their employees to be capable of doing their jobs, unless there is proof otherwise. After all, that is why they were hired in the first place. Over-managing or “micromanaging” in certain situations can actually create a hostile work environment. It’s fine to check in with your staff, but if you fail to show trust in your workers, you may find a decrease in the overall loyalty of your staff.

They overwork their employees.  There are managers who tend to over-burden their best employees. By treating your subordinates this way, you may risk making them feel as though they are being “punished” for their excellent performance. Additionally, recent research has found that overworking employees may actually result in lower productivity, due to fatigue, tension, and other stress-related factors; despite the additional hours worked.

It’s best not to single out one employee or increase their workload, simply because he or she provides quality output. Top performers in an organization may willingly take on more responsibilities, but may also eventually move on if it becomes a consistent pattern. Be sure to delegate fairly; and when you do give employees additional work, ensure that they have been aptly rewarded and compensated.

They do not recognize employee contributions and reward exceptional performance.  With relation to the previous aspect, remember that everyone wants to be appreciated, especially those who take exceptional pride in their work. Supervisors and managers need to understand how each employee would like to be rewarded. Some employees would love a raise, others prefer public recognition. When employees know that their efforts are recognized by the company, you can expect they will consistently produce excellent output.

They do not honor their promises.  When you make promises to your workers, make sure that you honor them, as failing to do so may negatively affect employee morale, and ultimately, retention. When you back up your words with the appropriate actions, your employees will see you in an honorable light and as a trustworthy individual. When you have proven yourself to be trustworthy, your employees will remain engaged and loyal to you, and your organization.

They do not treat employees equally.  It is easy to give preferential treatment to top performers in your organization, but if done in an overly apparent way, you may undermine your efforts to manage your employees as a whole. You do not have to treat everyone identically, but you should make a point of showing each employee that they are equally important to the organization. If certain workers feel that they are not part of your inner circle, teamwork will be nonexistent and this will reduce productivity.

They blame their employees when something goes wrong.  We all experience times when mistakes are made or an important goal is not reached. Some bosses readily place blame on their employees when confronted by top management. When you solely blame your employees, you may cause your own superiors to question whether you are capable of managing a team and accomplishing goals. Instead of pointing a finger, act with dignity, protect your employees, and take responsibility for the failure while reconfiguring your team’s approach for better results in the future.

These are just some of the negative traits that some bosses possess; if you want to succeed in managing your staff, here are some tips for being a great leader.

What can leaders do to improve their management skills?

Set clear expectations.  Explain to employees, from the very beginning, what the priorities of his or her job are. Describe your view of an excellent performance, and regularly and clearly discuss your expectations from that point forward.

Achieve a balance between rigidity and flexibility. Provide clear direction without dictating to employees. Encourage them to make suggestions on how to achieve goals to promote empowerment and engagement.

Coach your employees.  Lead your employees from a coaching perspective. Furthermore, lead by example and always encourage employees to work to their highest potential. Allow your employees do their job, and celebrate their achievements. Be present without dominating.

Always provide feedback.  Do not wait for the employee’s job performance review to inform them if their performance is not up to par. By doing this, employees are able to improve their performance before the formal performance rating is conducted.

Consistently recognize employee efforts.  Be aware that employees need to know that they are appreciated. Be sure to let your staff know that their contributions are valuable to the organization.

It is easier for employees to achieve goals when they know what is expected of them, and that they are on the right track toward a successful outcome.  When goals are attained, be sure that the employee is aware you have taken note and reward applicably.

Treat employees equally.  Ensure that each employee knows they are an equally contributing member of the team. This will help develop mutual trust and respect, creating an environment for successful collaboration and goal realization.

Get to know your employees.  Know your employees by name and greet them when you see them during the day.  Do your best to give your employees full attention when they need to speak with you.  If this is not possible, schedule a time when you can meet, and uphold your appointment. A boss who regularly speaks to, and takes the time to understand, their employees shows patience and inspires positivity among his or her staff.

Do not fear making mistakes.  While quality work should always be encouraged, leaders should be sure that employees are not afraid to let them know if an error has occurred.  When mistakes happen, teach employees how to use their mistake as a learning tool and opportunity to do a better job next time.

A successful organization typically has a leader who inspires his employees to do a great job.


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How can you, as business leader, inspire your staff?

Through what motivates you to be in your business.  Why are you in this industry? Why are you the head of the organization? Your purpose for being where you are right now will determine your performance and growth in the business. It will also help boost productivity and help develop great partnerships within the organization. These partnerships include your working relationship with your employees.

Through you business model.  Your business model shows what you do to increase profit and growth in your company. When your business model indicates that you have built the best business they could participate in, you can expect their commitment to contribute to the success of your company.

Through hiring the right people.  The most important resource of an organization is its workforce. It is important, therefore, to hire the right people for the right jobs within your company. When you do, communication and collaboration will begin to flow, and, in time, become seamless.

Through serving a higher purpose.  All businesses were created with the purpose of serving customers and generating profit. However, the purpose of a business should go beyond simply the creation of products and services. Businesses should help improve people’s lives.

Organizations that serve a higher purpose will attract more employees, as well as other resources that will help make your company stronger.

In Conclusion

While many are born natural leaders, much of what it takes to be an effective, inspiring leader can be learned.  In fact, a good leader never stops learning. If you want to maintain your value as a quality leader, you need to read the right books and literature, attend management seminars, do regular self-examinations, and trust your instinctual knowledge of wrong and right.

Fred Coon, CEO

At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.