By Steve Raw. Helping you on your leadership journey

The makings of a good to great boss

This blog post is based on my experience of having 3 great bosses.

  1. I was working in London some 7 years ago enjoying my new job as a Director of Learning Disabilities. I liked the organisation and the people I worked with and supported and I liked who I was working for, but as I waited for my train home I felt something was not quite right – what was it? True, I was missing my previous organisation, the buzz and the excitement, but most of all I was missing the person I had been working for over 5 years.  She had employed me in a number of jobs, sending me into an area which was often in crisis and I missed the way she stretched my abilities.

As my train arrived I thought……

  • A great Boss makes you do more and be more – often better than you could have imagined
  1. Standing on a windswept hill in the Brecon Beacons, I stood listening to my boss making a speech to over 1000 soldiers. They were part-time soldiers who had temporarily left their full time jobs to take part in an autumn deployment in Wales.  He was setting the scene for the coming weeks.  It was wet and it was cold, but I could see he had their attention and their enthusiasm.  I felt inspired!

As we walked away I thought…….

  • A great Boss captures peoples’ imagination – they paint a picture of what can be
  1. He had been my boss twice during my army career both in the early 1980s and early 1990s, and now in my second career I had another opportunity to work with him. In 2009 I had the opportunity to work on a project which involved traffic light signalling for people with disabilities in London.  I was discussing the project with one of his engineers, who told me how much he enjoyed working for him and said he was the first boss who had shown any interest in his life and family.  This was not a surprise to me, as I knew him well, but I could understand why it may have been a surprise to him.

As I left the office building I thought……..

  • A great Boss cares not just about the work but you as a person.

I entered the world of work as a 15 year old.  Over the last 45 years I have had numerous bosses, especially as in the army they changed on average every 18 months due to postings and, with the odd exception, they have all been great people to work for and with each one I have taken something from their leadership and management style which I like to think I have moulded into how I lead.  For the purpose of this post, however, I have chosen my three favourite bosses to share what I think makes a “Good to Great Boss”.

So I do not lose you, I have included five lessons I took from each one, although it should be noted that I could have included many more!

Boss Number 1

  1. Loyalty. She gives her loyalty first, which makes you want to do the very best for her and return that loyalty
  2. Entrepreneur. It is exciting working for someone who is an entrepreneur, and who has one big idea after another.  www.dosh.org is one of those big ideas
  3. Experience & Knowledge. Great bosses know how it works.  They have a depth of knowledge of every management function for their organisation, and articulate and demonstrate that knowledge through practice and example
  4. Passionate. Spend time with her and you know how passionate she is about the people she supports.  The best bosses are passionate and great role models for what they do and are very often infectious
  5. You feel excited by what is coming next. You never quite know what to expect when you receive an email, or see her name come up on your phone, but whatever you are going to be asked to do you know it is going to be fun.

Boss number 2

  1. Inspires. He was able to (and still does) excite you about projects he wants you to be involved in
  2. Courage. It doesn’t matter how difficult the objective is going to be, he will do it anyway and worry about the ‘fear’ later
  3. Added Value. He was awarded the MBE for services to the Former Yugoslavia (which included building a school with his soldiers) and received the Wilkinson Sword of Peace during the peace process in Northern Ireland on behalf of the Infantry Battalion he commanded.  It is not just about the day job for him.
  4. Gratitude. He always shows his appreciation and gratitude to people who have helped and supported him no matter how small your contribution.  At the end of an operation he would not go home until he had personally written to everyone who had supported him to thank them.
  5. Fitness. He was supremely fit, which probably explained his incredible work capacity, and was always able to deliver at a very high standard no matter what time of the day or night it, irrespective of weather conditions

Boss Number 3

  1. Humour. I spent a deployment in the Artic Circle with him and, irrespective of the conditions, he never lost his sense of humour (which has not changed) and believed you can achieve anything if you can always see the humour in the situation.
  2. Calm. When everyone else is panicking or having a ‘strop’, it is good to be working alongside someone who remains calm
  3. Sense of Perspective. There have been a number of times when I have talked through a situation or a problem and having someone who is able to put your concern/worry into perspective helps you cope.
  4. Relentless Focus on Goals. He always askes me what the goal of our organisation and team is, and then determines how I should keep this focus.  I see how he applies this to his own work and responsibilities and then try to emulate his example.
  5. A Mentor and Coach. A mentor is someone who will give you the answers and a coach gets you to come up with your own answers.  He recently did this for me when I was struggling with my Business Plan objectives.  No matter how busy he was he found the time to meet with me.

And what do these three bosses have in common?

  1. They are memorable. You never forget them and if you move on you want to keep in touch and do whatever you can for them when they need you.
  2. They are consistent. When you meet up with them it never crosses your mind that they would be any different from how they usually are – positive!
  3. They have a strong work ethic. They work harder than you!
  4. Their Values and Beliefs are there for everyone to see. Values and beliefs are not just words on a paper.  They live them everyday.  You know what they believe in and what they stand for.
  5. They believe in you. There is a reason why they stretch you or ask you to take on the most difficult task – it is because they believe in you.

This is my check list for a Good to Great Boss.  I try to achieve them each and every day.

What is on your checklist?

Boss No1             Karen Boyce Dawson Director of Operations and Exec Director for the Thera Group

Boss No2             Farren Drury MBE http://www.gomakeityours.com

Boss No3             Alan Bristow  ‎Diretor Road Space Management at Transport for London

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2 Responses »

  1. Interestingly I know two out of your 3 bosses. One as a colleague and one as a client. I could not agree more. Both authentic, courageous and dedicated. Super leaders who stand out from the crowd. Their success is not from any technical competence but from their ability to motivate and mobilise the people who work for them.
    Good article and I like that you mention them in person. They will be embarrassed but secretly pleased I am sure
    Gordon Mackenzie

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Contact me

steve.raw@dosh.org
@DoshLtd

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