Recently I have been reflecting and thinking, what does it mean to be the best boss? Which led me to think about the best “bosses” I have worked with and for.
I have been working (formally) since I was 15 and I am now well into my 50’s. That is quite a few bosses to reflect back on. There were 3 that immediately came to mind, all from my years as a professional educator.
The first, a superintendent in a district where I worked. She taught me that organizations are not people, but they are made of people. If you know, respect and grow people, your organization will be healthy, strong and innovative. She was not a boss, but a leader who I followed because she inspired, listened, and helped me learn to be a better person.
The second, I was part of a grant group working to bring professional development in a district to support technology integration. She taught me to lead by example. She believed that you should hire the right people, trust them and get out of the way. She was inspiring to work for and I can only hope to be as inspiring as she was. I worked for her as long as I could. She eventually moved on to the next adventure and I was thankful for what she passed on as a coach and mentor.
Finally, my Ph.D. advisor who I also worked for while I was writing my thesis. He was gentle, kind and knew how to ask just the right questions. I learned what it meant to lead from him. He was never a boss, although I reported to him, I always viewed him as a colleague and mentor.
Reflecting back on bosses, I can list characteristics of what did not help me in the role I had and what did make me better. Good bosses are leaders, mentors, teachers, and listeners. They put people in place to move visions forward, consistently support policies that build trust, and then moving out of the way. They understand that magic comes from people who are empowered and inspired to do their best work because they care about the mission and vision. They are not afraid to surround themselves with people that reach outside of the status quo to achieve success.
I have discovered on my journey that I like working for and with leaders. I’m not fond of working for bosses. My Ph.D. advisor used to say there are leaders and bosses. They are not the same.
I choose to be a leader. Which leads directly to the next question. What do we know about leadership and why does it matter. Why not just manage as a boss?