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  • Jay B

How to understand your Boss better

Updated: Oct 7, 2020


There is a popular saying that employees do not quit a bad job, they leave a bad boss. Hence it’s no surprise that companies like Google have spent over 10 years studying the common behaviors and traits of high performing managers so that they can invest in recruiting or developing the ideal manager. Hundreds of books have been written on leadership and team management, yet it is one of the most sought after skill that employers are seeking globally.


In the popular NBC show ‘The Office’, the character of Michael Scott is initially portrayed as a dysfunctional manager. However as you get to know him better he becomes more predictable and agreeable. You realize that though he is mostly flawed, he also has some positive attributes which seem to work in his favor sometimes. Of course this was a TV series meant for entertainment purposes but some of the characteristics and traits of Michael as well as his team are quite relatable in the real world.


In my 16 odd years of corporate job experience, I have encountered and worked with 14 bosses. Some have inspired me to do my best while others have not lived up to the expectations to put it kindly. What I realized is that to label someone as a good boss or bad boss is subjective and the purpose of this article is not to identify or categorize such leaders. While technical skills and expertise are necessary qualifications of a boss, there are other qualities that become more important in the long-term especially in a manager-team kind of relationship. (Please note that for the purposes of this article the terms ‘leader’, ‘boss’ and ‘manager’ can be interchangeably used as they apply to anyone who leads, manages or commands a team/group. It does not indicate a specific role or management style).


“If there is any one secret of success,” said Henry Ford, “it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” In order to be successful at work I would like to broaden the worldview of leaders and give you five different set of lenses or dimensions through which to see them in order to better understand them.


The five leader dimensions are as follows:


1) The Human Dimension: The biggest difference between Artificial Intelligence and Human Intelligence is that a computer cannot experience life or develop values and therefore cannot make judgements. It is this very exercise of sound judgements that give employees the distinction and role of leaders in an organization. On the flipside, it is a quality that requires conscious practice and continuous improvement and leaders are susceptible to poor judgements or decisions. What ultimately matters is to recognize the consistency of successful judgement calls.


2) The Psychological Dimension: Whether you believe in the Trait Theory or the Behavioral Theory of leadership, what is important to note is that successful leadership is contextual and subjective. Steve Jobs was well known for his passion and vision for his company and people, at the same time has been criticized for having an autocratic leadership style. There are different facets of bosses and its best to analyze the underlying intentions also rather than only their actions or characteristics.


3) The Social Dimension: “It’s lonely at the Top” is a popular saying and seems to imply that those who become leaders or bosses are isolated socially and have fewer friends. Sometimes the reason could lie with the boss being socially awkward, other times team members put them high on a pedestal. Whatever the reason, developing a friendly rapport with your boss (within set boundaries) can go a long way in fostering a deeper relationship. Further it helps break the ice when the relationship is a new one.


4) The Professional Dimension: Leaders are expected to exhibit a higher professional standard that others. Most of the time, it is the leader’s own moral and ethical compass or the culture of the company that highly influences this behavior. Understanding the professional persona of the boss can help one adjust or adapt to the standards expected. It is equally important to have awareness of your own professional standards in order to bridge the gap or exceed it.


5) The Emotional Dimension: Emotional Quotient (EQ) accounts for 67% of the abilities deemed necessary for superior performance in leaders. For someone to possess a high EQ, they need to recognize and label their own emotions and those of others, use this information to guide their thinking and behavior and act accordingly. Hence the best way one can determine the EQ levels of your boss and deal with them better is to first get a clear understanding of your own emotional attributes.

General Sun Tzu in his reputed book The Art of War wrote “When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leader”. Great leaders rarely lose sight of their people priorities as they juggle multiple responsibilities. However a manager-team relationship can become challenging and confusing at times so it’s good to have a more holistic perspective of a boss or leader in order to determine your overall compatibility with them with regards to a sense of purpose and direction. This is a collaborative process that requires self-reflection as well as discernment. Feel free to reach out to me at jay@harkcoachingservices.com for more information.

Jay B is an interpersonal intelligence coach. With his coaching methodology, he helps his global clients better understand and resolve workplace power dynamics and interpersonal situations effectively in order to achieve goals.

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