Why you should avoid massaging your boss's ego
"People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads and the boss drives." Theodore Roosevelt
The caption of this article probably puts you in a fix whether you have to massage your boss’s ego. Before we arrive at a conclusion there are various aspects to know such as the difference between a boss and a leader, and four models from organizational behavior (OB).
There are four models in organizational behavior namely autocratic, custodial, supportive and collegial. The autocratic model prevailed initially where employees were under the mercy of employers. In this model, the employees worked as labor and obeyed whatever the bosses ordered. Subsequently surfaced another model named custodial where the employees cannot be fired as they are provided with job security and other financial and non-financial benefits.
It is further followed by another model named supportive where employees are supported by employers and bosses above them. It is fairly better than the previous models of autocratic and custodial. Currently we have collegial model where there is no much gap between the superiors and subordinates as all are treated with request equally. The Generation Y appreciates this collegial model, and it is mostly followed by American management and top global companies in the world. In this model, there will not be any bosses but only leaders. However, we still find bosses in the guise of leaders.
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Bosses versus leaders
In fact, there is a difference between bosses and leaders as bosses are mostly arrogant and egoistic in nature and they often come with workaholic attitude. Russell H. Ewing differentiates between bosses and leaders as, “A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting.”
The people who work with bosses find it tough to get along with them as the expectations of the bosses are high and they are mostly task oriented. In contrast, the leaders are blend of both task-orientation and people-orientation with a heart to make a difference in the lives of their employees. The leaders adopt transformational leadership style, and treat their subordinates like colleagues and get the tasks executed successfully. The leaders support the subordinates in their training and development and quicken their career advancement. They empathize and listen to their subordinates and lead their teams successfully.
If you happen to work under a boss you have to be more careful in your work. As long as you do your work sincerely you don’t have to bother about your boss, and you don’t have to massage his or her ego. All that you must do is to be assertive in your approach, actions and communication.
Tips to handle your boss
- Handle your boss with tact but not at the cost of your integrity and principles. Be in his or her good books to get the tasks executed smoothly. At the same time, learn to draw the line between praise and flattery.
- Be strong in your domain so that you will have respect in the workplace and boss will not have any scope to point you out.
- Avoid arguing with your boss because there is a popular cliché - ‘boss is always right’. Therefore, keep your views within yourself. When the organizational issues are involved express your views assertively.
- Be professional and avoid interfering into his or her personal life to maintain longevity in relations.
- Don’t surprise your boss. Keep your boss informed whenever you do important tasks. The boss should not feel that s/he was bypassed or neglected.
- Emphasize on ideas rather than individuals in organizational aspects to avoid getting into egoistic issues.
- Keep your boss in good humor to avoid organizational politics and ensure peaceful workplace ambience.
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It is often said in the corporate world that people don’t leave organizations but they leave bad bosses. It is mostly correct as organizations are often good but the people who lead often found to be problematic for the employees. Therefore, instead of blaming the bad bosses, it is better to understand your boss well and mold yourself accordingly to build a chemistry and compatibility to get the things going smoothly. You cannot choose your bosses and just because of bad bosses you cannot shift organizations frequently. Hence, best thing is to understand the ground realities and personality types; and build a chemistry to enable peaceful workplace ambience and outcome.
“In the past a leader was a boss. Today's leaders must be partners with their people... they no longer can lead solely based on positional power.” Ken Blanchard
About the author
Professor M.S.Rao is an international leadership guru and an internationally acclaimed leadership educator, executive coach, speaker, and consultant. He has 33 years of experience, and the author of 27 books including the award-winning 21 Success Sutras for Leaders that has been selected as the Top 10 Leadership Books of the Year – 2013 by San Diego University.
Follow Professor M.S.Rao on Twitter @professormsrao
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.