Don't Fire the Boss!

in Leadership

Recent studies reveal 71% of people would fire their boss if they could. In reality what happens is people either fear, disrespect or leave their boss. What's going on behind the scenes is a growing movement of unproductive, uninspired and disengaged employees.

I am assuming because you are reading this article that you are the type of boss who wants your team to feel inspired, motivated and deliver their maximum. It's nice if people like you, but what you are really seeking is to gain their trust and respect. Also you may want to develop a reputation for building top performing teams around you. If this is the case then following this step by step guide will help you enormously on the leadership journey ahead:

Leader: There is a huge difference between managing and leading people. You can only effectively manage people for very short periods. Management works for underperformance, conflict situations and to address errors. Any other form of management intervention i.e. constantly checking up on people, controlling and always questioning will reduce productivity and eventually force your best people to leave. (Daily audios are the scourge of management). So, in order to lead your people and get the best out of them the following characteristics and activities will bring you startling results.

Enthusiasm and Passion: Become constantly aware of the power and impact you have as a leader. You set the tone. How you arrive in the morning will dictate the way your people leave at the end of each day. If you want to demotivate people just look and act miserable! If you want the opposite then become passionate, enthusiastic and give off loads of energy. Zap your people don't Sap them. Make a conscious effort not to let things get you down as the knock on effect on your team could be devastating. Focus on the positives, have a clear vision of success that you can easily and consistently communicate and seek every opportunity to praise and reward outstanding achievement.

"The problem with most managers is that they don't stand for anything and yet, leadership implies movement toward something - a sense of direction". Don Shula co-author - The Little Book of Coaching.

Adaptable: We live in a time of unprecedented change globally and the leaders of today need to be highly adaptable, forward thinking and pro-active. They need to anticipate, seek out and enjoy change and engender this philosophy in their team. An excellent tool to help leaders to understand how people respond to change exists in the form of the book and audio CD entitled 'Who Moved My Cheese' by Dr Spencer Johnson.

Drive and Ambition: Make sure you let your team know how ambitious you are. For you personally, for them individually and for the team as a whole. You must carefully plan how you communicate this message. It's easy to say "I want to be number one" but what's in it for them? A more powerful message might be "if we get to number one then..." (Emphasis on we). Constantly reinforcing your drive to achieve success in a way that engages the team is essential.

Engage: which leads us nicely onto engaging your people. This is the most powerful of all leadership tools. A team that feels engaged is far more likely to succeed, just as a volunteer is better than 10 pressed men. The 3 key ingredients to engaging are listen, trust and respect. Find out what motivates your people; play to their strengths; ensure you are approachable and empathetic to their needs. Balance this with a clear vision of success. When people feel important and are making a valuable contribution to the teams success and this is acknowledged, you will earn the respect and trust needed that will enable you to develop their skills further and stretch their performance to levels they never thought possible. Build time into your diary to walk the floor, chat to people openly or in small groups. Regularly call people into your office to seek their views and ask them how they are feeling. Don't take on their monkeys, but give them the responsibility if things need changing. Ask for solutions not just problems. The key here is to listen actively. This isn't just a PR exercise. Make it a regular habit to listen and make sure you have a good diary system to follow up (or a good memory!)

"I make progress by having people around who are smarter than I am and listening to them. And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am". Henry J Kaiser - American Industrialist (1882 - 1967).

Relentless: Jack Welsh once described the best 3 leadership qualities as the 3 E's: enthusiasm, energy and edge. You display edge by being relentless. Yes, you can be a great leader to work for, but everyone in the team knows you are relentless in your pursuit for excellence. You confront issues head on and you have great systems to follow up. Small "light touches" with your people will keep you in regular contact with how they are feeling, how they are performing and how you can all learn and improve. Don't mistake this with micro management. There is a huge difference between "daily audio battering" and a quick head round the corner "how did the interview yesterday go?" What you are seeking to do here is show genuine interest in the person's contribution in order to praise and recognise their achievement or offer coaching and support.

Self Develop: Although a long way down the list, this is by far the most important leadership attribute. It will set you apart from all the rest. Put aside time each day to learn new skills, hone existing skills, reflect on what has worked and what hasn't and seek to continually improve yourself. There are a plethora of leadership learning programmes, books, audio and interactive systems that are available to help managers to transform themselves into leaders. Successful leaders invest up to 5% of what they earn in self development. They also find it pays them back 10 fold.

High Standards: It's all very well being relentless and setting high expectations of your people but you must walk the talk. Make sure you live to your own standards. If, for example, you don't want people to turn up late to your meetings, make sure you never arrive later and always meet deadlines in good time; otherwise you will undermine all your messages. Act as a role model. Equally, don't walk past when you have just seen lower standards being displayed by your team. Confronting issues and challenging behaviour can be uncomfortable but in the long run, people who work for you will grow and improve. The key here is to praise openly and reprimand privately.

Inspire: You cannot motivate people as motivation is an inside job. However you can inspire them to self motivate, stretch themselves and to commit to positive change. You inspire people by creating a high performance, high value culture which focuses on overcoming adversity, rewarding success and helping people to achieve what they only dreamed was possible.

People First: Quoting Jack Welsh once again, "If there is anything I would like to be remembered for it is that I helped people understand that leadership is helping other people to grow and succeed. To repeat myself, leadership is not about you it's about them." So, always put your people first. Making sure they get the credit for a job well done will engender a desire in them to want to deliver time and time again. This way you will create a team where at least 71% of people would hire you as their boss rather than fire you!


At the beginning of your journey to transform yourself from a manager into a leader it may help for you to undertake a quick self assessment of where you think you currently are. The above 10 aspects of leadership which make up the acronym LEADERSHIP can be scored on a scale of 1 to 10, whereby 1 is where you least feel you display this quality and 10 is you display this quality all the time. Scoring each aspect will give you a total score out of 100 which can be compared to the scale below.

Score 0-60: This score is likely to reflect the frustration you may be feeling in not being able to get your people to do what you want them to do. You may even feel managing people is not for you. Don't despair. Now that you know the 10 principles to becoming a better leader I recommend you write out a plan for each aspect, with particular focus on your own self development. Setting goals is one thing; however you must have the discipline to implement each action so that you can truly begin your new leadership journey.

Score 60-75: You are displaying some leadership qualities but there is room for further improvement and you know that if you can improve any of the above areas your results will speak for themselves. Particular focus on the self development area will enable you to enhance your skills and step towards becoming a great leader.

Score 75-90: You are well on your way to becoming an outstanding leader. However, it would be very interesting to obtain a score from the people within your team as this might reveal some gaps between your perception as to how you lead and how your team feel about the way in which you lead. There are some great 360° feedback surveys available to help you. In the meantime, however, particular focus on the self development area above will help you to fine tune your skills to get you to where you want to be.

Score 90+: You are already displaying all the qualities of a great leader. You may have peers or other managers in your company who would benefit from your coaching and mentoring. Well done - you are definitely hired.

Author Box
Simon Teague has 1 articles online

Simon led many teams throughout his 26 years in the UK Finance Industry. He developed numerous strategies and tools to create winning teams. These teams won several awards over the past 7 years and generated over 40 million of income.

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Don't Fire the Boss!

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This article was published on 2010/03/29