The Mindset of a Good Boss

It’s Friday night and my brain is not quite in the mood to tackle today’s “big” budget deal announcement. My initial reaction: Underwhelmed and disappointed. Looks like Oklahoma schools will spend yet another year scraping for crumbs. How bad would it have been without the education rally? Was anyone at the Capitol listening? Geesh!

Instead, I thought I would take a brief detour into the topic of organizational leadership. Don’t tune out yet…I said brief!

I am a big fan of author Daniel Pink, in particular his research on the dynamics of human motivation. His book “Drive” is a must read for anyone whose job involves directing or supervising others.

Pink recently tweeted a link to a 2010 Harvard Business Review article titled “12 Things Good Bosses Believe.” The research was done by Stanford University Management Professor, Dr. Robert Sutton, for his book “Good Boss, Bad Boss,” also published in 2010.

What makes a boss great? According to Sutton, being a good boss means more than having certain leadership traits. It is even more critical to possess a certain mindset. Along these lines, Sutton has distilled his findings into 12 key beliefs that are held by the best bosses — and rejected, or more often simply never even thought about, by the worst bosses.

While Sutton’s focus is on business management, I believe his twelve beliefs adapt very well to educational leadership. All twelve resonate with me, yet my personal favorites are numbers 5, 8, and 12.

Which ones strike a chord with you? Are there any surprises?

Another fun way to process this list is to use Janet Barresi as the filter since she is the “boss” of our state’s public education system. How do you think Janet would score herself using this criteria?

1. I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.

2. My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.

3. Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day.

4. One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.

5. My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my people from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe — and to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well.

6. I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.

7. I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my people to do the same thing.

8. One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is “what happens after people make a mistake?”

9. Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too.

10. Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.

11. How I do things is as important as what I do.

12. Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk — and not realizing it.

As we approach the important upcoming primaries, this list might serve as a good reference for evaluating the potential candidates as well. I think we have had our fill of idiocy and insensitivity for quite a while.

It’s in the Lemurs’ Hands NowThank You!
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