Tips for Becoming the World's Best Boss
Written by Jim & Matt Finkelstein
Not all bosses are created equal and there are certain trends that make for better bosses. Forty years of combined experience – one of us with 35 as a professional management consultant and the other with 5 as a fresh and reflective worker – have uncovered prime examples of good bosses. To enlighten the modern workplace and workforce, here are five examples of good bosses (and they are not mutually exclusive):
1) The Listener – a boss who will listen to and appreciates different points of view. This boss hears and honors their employees’ thoughts and considerations respectfully but with a caveat being they may or may not put these ideas into action. The Listener listens to their employees because they were hired for a reason. As such, they trust their employees and value their input. Sometimes, they are even dependent upon it. The Listener is a good boss because they have insight beyond their own experience and vision, insight that is influenced by many angles, and because if their employees are allowed to voice their own opinions and ideas, they are inspired and engaged.
2) The Empowerer – a boss that lets employees run their own show and lets them learn by making some mistakes. To a degree of trust and support, this boss cultivates leadership in their team. Working together, they identify tasks and create a plan, but let the employees decide the nuts & bolts of how it actually gets done. The Empowerer doesn’t delegate aimlessly, creating a sense of subordination in their team, but rather engages their employees from the ground up in a focused manner. Employees are inspired to take on leadership roles and collaborate both with their boss and with others. The Empowerer is a good boss because they can simultaneously ignite productivity, personal development, and satisfaction among their employees.
3) The Mentor – a boss that teaches, coaches and guides. This boss doesn’t necessarily need to be older, but a tad wiser or simply just willing to share. They seek to understand their employees’ experiences and identify which ones need or want mentoring. The relationship with their employees is constructive, meaning both criticism and praise are offered with the intentions of growing the employees set of skills. An offer to mentor is either explicitly offered or subtly developed over time. The goal is both in current interest and looking towards the future, always geared to enhance the employees’ skills. The Mentor is a good boss because they ensure a future for the employee and the company while inspiring immediate productivity and engagement.
4) The Cool Dude (or Dudette) – a boss that has fun and lets their employees have fun. This boss maintains a certain aura of authority while creating a likeable and lively atmosphere. They let their employees enjoy their time at work and find time for small diversions, within the confines that the job still gets done…and done well. At those instances, this boss rewards their employees with time off or special workplace events within the realm of a respectable workplace culture. The Cool Dude or Dudette is a good boss because they understand that all employees are people, that all people need some kind of fun, and that happy employees are healthy, productive, and engaged.
5) The Creator – a boss who inspires invention and creativity. This boss pushes the limits of their employees to ignite innovation. They challenge intellect and question the status quo, so that new products and ideas are developed from within. The Creator embodies the spirit of imagination and is never overly demanding. Creativity and invention come from a unique mindset, so this boss correctly identifies those in their team that are keen to this way of thinking. As such, The Creator is a good boss because they are motivational and collaborative.
These five bosses, or rather their respective characteristics, exemplify what makes for healthy leadership within organizations. Many bosses may embody many or all of these characteristics. The best bosses are able to reflect upon their own natural inclinations and experiences, leveraging their assets and developing areas of weakness. Common trends amongst these five good bosses make for a great boss as well – collaborative, communicative, engaging, and inspirational. Our new cogenerational world is crying out for leaders – of all ages and generations -- and hopefully many of us will realize that great leaders can exist in the smallest, biggest, nearest and furthest of places.
Jim Finkelstein is a student and leader of people in business. With 34+ years of consulting and corporate experience, he has specialized in business and people strategy, motivation and reward, and organizational assessment, development, communications and transformation. Finkelstein has worked for diverse industries, from health care to high tech. He has built programs and provided services to Boards of Directors, senior executives, management and employees.
His experience includes being a partner in a Big Five firm, a CEO of a professional services firm, a corporate executive for Fortune 500 companies, and an entrepreneur with his current company, FutureSense®, Inc. He has experienced business from every possible angle and through every possible change.
Fuse: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace™ is available for purchase on amazon.com.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.