In the famous song “Paid the Cost to Be the Boss” (of which there are several versions), there is a message for anyone seeking a leadership role within a company or an industry. In order to attain a true leadership status, aka being “the boss,” the overriding concern must always be for the prosperity of the business rather than any sort of self-aggrandizing or egotistical pursuit.
The “cost” is often measured in one’s ability or willingness to do what others cannot do or do not wish to do. The boss works for the good of the organization or business as a whole, but in so doing works rather selflessly for the good of the individuals within it and its clients or customers. There are skills and attributes which any competent leader should possess. If any of these are lacking, you can and should work on them.
Directing others toward a positive objective requires constant honing of one’s skills, so the first mistake would be in thinking you know everything or you’ve got it all figured out. You are constantly learning and refining what you do. At the same time, you should be building your own level of certainty, as people respond well when their leader is certain on the direction being taken. Here are a few major points to consider:
Lead by Example
You should not ask anyone to do anything that you are not willing to do yourself. Even if you have attained some rank or status in your company, you should not be above the detailed or even mundane tasks that your employees are responsible for. One of the best business strategies for employee engagement has always been to perform these tasks alongside your staff, at least for a little while or at certain intervals. This has several advantages: It establishes that you are not “above” any task in the company. It demonstrates that you understand the intricate inner workings of the operation. It shows others that you can’t be fooled, i.e. you aren’t aloof or uninvolved. It also establishes a degree of respect and camaraderie.
Although everyone has their own personal goals, in a business, goals must be aligned. People naturally look to those whom they consider leaders to provide this vision for them. Stated or not, this is the main job description for a senior executive.
You should not be shy when communicating company vision to employees. People can pick up on weaknesses and ideas that have not been thoroughly thought out. Your employees are performing the upkeep and the day-to-day tasks that free you up to formulate this vision and make the contacts necessary to make it happen. You must show that you are working as hard at your job as they are working at theirs.
The main way that you showcase clarity of vision is through having a succinct and easy to follow communication strategy. Your vision should be well-thought-out so that even the newest employee gets it. People respect this kind of thinking and the work that goes into it.
Be Able to Recognize Your Own Mistakes
If you are the kind of person who can “take it on the chin,” then you may have what it takes to be the boss. Leaders usually do not have anywhere else to point the finger when things go wrong. It is even worse when leaders try to blame employees for things that are not their fault. Also, if you are the type of person who “kills the messenger” when delivered bad news, then you may want to rethink your leadership strategy. People should be able to come to you with any and all concerns without having to worry about your negative reaction. True, you’d rather hear about how it was all taken care of, but if people withhold vital information for fear of repercussions then your communication channels need improvement.
Be Steadfast in Your Vision
People should look to you as a leader because you have the ability to hold fast during the tough times. The old saying that “everything looks like a failure in the middle” is definitely a phrase that many business owners should take to heart. There are very few processes that have the same momentum at all points. Sometimes, it is through the unwavering vision of the leader that everyone else retains their clarity.
Understand Your Employees, aka Understand People
Understanding your employees really means understanding people in general. People like to have a worthwhile goal to work towards. They like working in a positive environment. They thrive in an atmosphere of productivity. They also thrive on challenges, so do not be afraid to challenge people. When you challenge them, they know that they’re valuable and will quite often rise to the occasion or make a sincere effort.
We all need the wherewithal to pay our bills, support our families, prosper and enjoy the fruits of our labor. But if you feel you must reward your employees exclusively with money, you are missing a key point and have not truly earned their respect as a leader. Intermittent rewards are quite alright, and promotions and raises are perfectly valid. However, true leaders are able to entice employees into working for a vision because of the nature of the vision itself. They not only believe in the vision, they believe in your ability to guide them. This kind of respect does not require any additional gifts.
Building a Team
Being a successful boss requires hard work, setting a positive example, ability to communicate, a degree of self-examination, a singular vision, understanding of people, and it requires one be adept at the art of team building. When you are in a business for the long haul, the phrase “built to last” becomes a guiding principle. From hiring the right people to establishing high levels of morale and job satisfaction, from knowing people’s strengths and skills to developing altogether new techniques for doing things – team building is an activity of continuous engagement.
The Boss Never Gives Up
Being the boss isn’t necessarily easy. You have setbacks and heartbreaks rather routinely, but the boss is driven in the direction of success. The boss is at the very least tenacious and persistent. When the boss falls down, he or she gets back up. When others fall, the boss reaches out a hand. The boss never gives up. People look up to that.