I’ve been working with first-time bosses for over a
quarter century. I’ve studied what makes a great boss and how the transition
unfolds and sometimes unravels. I’ve trained new bosses and I’ve coached more
than a few. Here’s what I’ve learned.
A “boss” is someone responsible for a group and the group’s performance. The
word “responsible” is important. There are lots of leaders all over today’s
organization, but only bosses are responsible and accountable.
Becoming a boss should not be a promotion. Helping a team and the team
members succeed is a different kind of work than anything else you’ve ever done.
It’s not superior work, just different. It should be treated as a career change.
Not everyone is cut out to be a boss. If you’re thinking that being a boss is
for you, I urge you to try it out before you commit. Think about whether you
have what it takes.
There are four characteristics I evaluate when I’m involved in the decision
about who should become a boss. I think the people with the best odds of success
are those who accept responsibility, are willing to make decisions and willing
to talk to others about performance. They should also love helping others
This is not easy work. It takes new bosses a year or two to learn the basics
and become comfortable in their new role. It takes a decade or more to achieve
any sort of mastery and you will never master it all.
I’ve observed every possible way to select people for the boss’s job. Most
often they’re picked by people above them on the org chart. In some places
(mostly government) that’s supplemented with formal testing and assessment.
Teams rotate members through the boss’s job. I think the best way is having the
boss chosen by the team, with the power to de-select.
Boss’s Bottom Line
As we move deeper and deeper into the Knowledge Age, the boss as expert and
whipmaster will become less and less relevant. If that’s you, it’s time to
three-star-leadership/become-a-better-boss-one-tip-at-a-time” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Become a Better Boss One Tip at a Time.
Just promoted from individual contributor? Check out my ebook, Now You’re the Boss: Making the Most of the Most Important Transition in Business.