Searching for great bosses

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For better or worse, it may be easy to find a bad boss, but how do we engage the search for that seemingly more elusive good boss?

Isvari Mohan, in a piece for the Boston Globe, reports on a 10-year study by management professor Sydney Finkelstein (Dartmouth) that included over 200 interviews — all in a quest to identify the qualities of great bosses and how to find them. A few highlights from the Globe piece:

  • “Great bosses roll up their sleeves and work closely with their employees. They are ambitious, drivers of change, interested in the message of the company, and willing to delegate authority.”
  • “Superbosses are geniuses at helping other people accomplish more than they thought possible, and they focus on generating talent on a continuous basis, says Finkelstein. They want to see you leave and do well; they optimize talent flow, not talent retention. They find unlikely winners to hire. They don’t care about traditional resumes.”
  • “Finkelstein says there are three groups [of great bosses]: iconoclasts like Jon Stewart who are so obsessed with their jobs that their dedication motivates others; glorious bastards like Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp. who are driven by a desire to win and know they need talent to do so; and nurturers like cosmetics queen Mary Kay Ash who simply like helping others get ahead.”

Finkelstein’s findings appear in his new book, Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent (2016). I look forward to checking it out.

Faithful readers of this blog know that I spend a lot of time talking about bad bosses, especially those whose behaviors cross into the realm of bullying and abuse. It’s also vitally important, of course, that we talk about the qualities that make for good bosses, so we can have something to aspire to for ourselves and our co-workers.

Here are some previous posts that offer more commentary on this topic:

What makes for good bosses, leaders, and workplaces? (2015)

Positive qualities of my best bosses (2012)

You want good leaders? (2010)

 

3 responses

  1. I like the part about not using traditional resume’. For those that have suffered from bad bosses in several workplaces, one is not going to have a traditional, solid resume.Often, creativity and innovation have been suppressed. A genius good boss might see that. If that boss values patient safety, they might understand that the individual may have been a strong advocate that needs an appreciative place to land. A place that can channel the talents and help that person reach their highest potential, thus benefiting the safety interests of patients and leadership.

  2. I have had the opportunity to work for several good bosses. To a person, they mentored and lead in a manner positive manner. Their standard was excellence. They understood that not everyone was a superstar in all tasks and that is was the collective abilities of all that would make the team excel.

    “The Strength of the Pack Is the Wolf, and the Strength of the Wolf Is the Pack” – Rudyard Kipling

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