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Should I Lead Like My Boss?

Mary, a new supervisor at one of my clients, asked me if she should “lead like my boss leads.” I asked her if she likes how her boss leads the team. Her response, “Not always.” Therefore, the answer to Mary’s question, “Don’t lead like your boss leads."

LeadThe answer to “Should I lead like my boss?” Maybe, maybe not.

Every new leader must find their own path to leadership. Certainly we may see certain qualities or behaviors in other leaders that we believe to be effective and therefore take on those qualities or behaviors ourselves. And, in other cases, we experience behaviors that are less than effective and therefore strive to avoid displaying those behaviors ourselves when we become leaders.

Every new leader must find and embrace their own leadership style. Of course, this statement simplifies things, doesn’t it? It assumes that one leadership may be the right one when, in reality, it is essential for leaders to adapt their style of leading others based on the needs of the individuals they are leading. Some individuals we lead may need more attention than others.

For example, let’s assume that Mary leads a junior customer service representative just out of college. Joe, Mary’s employee, has never worked within an organization before. Mary cannot be “hands off” with Joe, but she doesn’t want to micromanage him either. Joe needs support and guidance as he begins his new role. This may entail Mary meeting with him daily to help him structure his day until he is comfortable doing so himself; then she may move to weekly meetings with Joe to check in on progress toward achieving goals. Mary will likely be involved in helping Joe resolve problems that arise.

On the other hand, another of Mary’s employees – Jackie – may have experience in customer service and has worked with this organization, as well as others, in a customer service role. Jackie needs far less attention from Mary on a regular basis. Mary may meet with Jackie weekly or bi-weekly to collaborate with Jackie and to help Jackie with professional development goals. Jackie is likely able to structure her day on her own as well as resolve problems that arise; calling on Mary only as needed.

What’s Your Leadership Style?

Find out your own leadership style,

  • Ask people who know you how you lead. What’s working? What’s not?
  • Consider how you work with others? What or who pushes your buttons (frustrates you?) What kind of individuals do you work best with? How do you manage those individuals with whom you have to work but do not have a great relationship?
  • Think of the best boss you ever had – what made them a great boss? What did they do or say? How did they behave? Now, think of the worst boss you ever had – why were they not successful in your eyes? What did they do or say? How did they behave?
  • How do you handle stress and deadlines? How does that impact others around you?

These are just a few of the questions you may ponder as you consider the kind of leader you are.

Successful Leaders

The most successful leaders do the following:

  • Collaborate with their team
  • Lead others as they want/need to be led, not as the manager chooses to lead (adaptive leadership style)
  • Have a sense of urgency
  • Enjoy working with others and helping others to find their path (develop professionally)
  • Embrace servant leadership – a leader who focuses on his/her employees before him/herself
  • Build relationships up, down and across the organization

What kind of leader are you? Should you lead like your boss in some way? Are there some characteristics and behaviors that make sense? Or should you take a different path to be an effective leader? Remember, the most effective leaders are always adapting to accommodate the needs of their employees.

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