Bossing Around: The Next Best Thing to Leadership

Written by lewsauder

September 10, 2012

Bossing Around

Bossing Around: The Next Best Thing to Leadership

Over the years, I’ve worked under many management styles. I’ve reported to managers that were so command and control that I questioned every decision I made, wondering if I was overstepping my bounds – or the bounds imposed on me by my manager.

I’ve also had managers that were so hands-off, I wasn’t sure whether I was doing my job correctly or not. I didn’t receive any feedback at all.

I’ve always been comfortable with a management approach that’s somewhere in- between, where a manager provided some expectations, perhaps a few critical parameters, and set me on my way, providing critical feedback –positive and negative – at appropriate times.

Regardless of someone’s management style, what I really desired was leadership.  I wanted a leader that coaxed people across the finish line rather than a manager that shoved them across.  I’ve known many people in the work place and outside of it who believed that barking out orders was what made them a good leader.

Bossing around breeds more bossing around.

The bossing around approach is contagious.  Bossy parents breed bossy kids, not through genetics, but by example.  In the same way, bosses pass it down to employees.  When an employee (or a child) who has been bossed around moves into a leadership position, they assume that they need to start barking out orders to show their authority.

“Do this. Do that. Put that over there.”

Instead, how about letting people think for themselves.  Whether you’re managing a company’s division, a project or your homeowners association’s annual picnic, try the following:

  • Communicate your vision.  Let them know what you think would be the ideal final result.
  • Solicit their feedback.  Once you’ve described your ideas, see if they have any better ones.  If you’re open minded enough, you’ll be able to take your own ideas and improve on them.
  • Make suggestions rather than give orders.  Try something like “Barb, how would you like to work on that?” or “Who wants to run with that idea?”  They’re rhetorical questions, but they make people more willing to do them and more committed to doing the job well, rather than just getting it done.
  • Say thank you.  Even when people do what they’re supposed to do, it never hurts to say thanks.

Every once in a while, I get the opportunity, as an uninvolved third-party, to observe a bossy boss.  I like to watch the reactions of the ones being bossed.  I find them to be much less happy about what they’re doing and more inclined to get the job done than to get it done right.

See my related post: The Illusion of Control

Do you respond to bossing around? In what environments to you perform best?

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at

Try it sometime…please.

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

Lew’s Books at Amazon:

Project Management 101
Consulting 101
The Reluctant Mentor

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