How to Be a Good Boss

If you’re a hardworking, talented, and career-driven person, you probably aspire to be a leader some day. It’s easy to understand why. “Being a boss” can feel like a natural next step after years or even decades of hard work and professional achievement. 

But being a good boss requires a number of skills that are separate from the ones that probably got you promoted. When you become a leader, your talents for writing code, or planning weddings, or stamping out widgets at the widget factory become inconsequential overnight, and your career success begins to depend instead on how well you communicate, motivate, and connect with the hearts and minds of others. 

Most people find this shift harder than they expected. They often end up feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and less sure of themselves than they felt before. Many seek out career coaching or leadership coaching to learn not only how to be a boss, but how to be a good boss, capable of leading a team of talented people to accomplish great things. They begin a process of personal growth that makes them more aware, more influential, and more courageous, at work and in every other area of their lives. 

This episode of the podcast is for anyone who leads other people, or who hopes to someday. As a small business owner myself, I can tell you that being a good boss is not a destination, but an ongoing journey that will challenge you in unexpected ways. I hope this episode gives you some fresh ideas for where to begin. 

You can find it on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. 

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. — For more expert advice on reaching your highest career potential, check out our “professional growth” collection of articles and podcasts.

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How to Be a Good Boss

Professional development means continuously growing so that you can function at higher and higher levels in your career. When you go from being managed to managing others, your continued professional development will require you to pick up some new leadership skills. 

You’ll need to become a better communicator, develop your emotional intelligence, and focus intently on building good working relationships

But before you get started on any of that, first you need to ask yourself a question:

Are You Cut Out to Be a Leader?

The truth is, not everyone is a natural-born boss — and that’s ok. 

There are a number of personality traits that can make it hard to manage others. You might be conflict avoidant, and find difficult conversations about things like performance problems even more stressful than the average person. You might be very introverted, and find it exhausting to have people turning to you for answers a dozen times a day. Your organization skills and ability to plan might not be strong enough to get a team of people working in alignment toward a common goal. 

None of these qualities are deal breakers. There are plenty of fantastic bosses who are naturally conflict avoidant, or introverted, or disorganized. But they are able to lead effectively because they work on themselves really hard so they can do what needs to be done in spite of their limitations in these areas. 

Are you willing to do that if you need to? And would you actually enjoy embracing that kind of personal growth process?

If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” you would be better off respectfully declining a management position. You won’t enjoy the work, and the people you’re supposed to be leading will feel frustrated and directionless. You would feel happier and find more success if you direct your talents elsewhere. 

If you have the self-awareness and humility to turn down a leadership position because it’s not the right fit for you, that’s something you can feel proud of. The world would be a much better place if more people knew themselves so well. 

What Makes a Good Boss?

Good leaders share a few qualities. You may or may not have been born with these traits; what matters is whether you’re willing to put in the work to develop them, and whether you can find some enjoyment in that process. 

First, leaders need to be able to see into the future a bit. When your job is to produce something or perform a series of tasks, you can focus on your goals for the day, or the week, or maybe the quarter. When your job is leading others, you have to expand your future horizon to consider the years ahead. Where is your organization going? How do you plan to get there? How does everyone on your team fit into that plan? 

This kind of “visionary” thinking is possible when you’re skilled at creative problem solving. There are obstacles standing between where you are now and where you want to be. When you’re the leader, it’s your job to anticipate them and plan a way around them, while your team is focused on the day-to-day tasks that keep your organization afloat. 

Next, you need to be able to communicate your vision to others in a way that is clear, and that generates goodwill and enthusiasm. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially the last part. 

The power dynamic between bosses and employees is tilted heavily in the boss’s direction. This is as it should be; anyone who has ever held a bake sale knows that without clear leadership, it’s impossible to keep a group of people organized and on-task. But if you aren’t skilled at building positive relationships with other people, this uneven power dynamic can become a fertile breeding ground for alienation, resentment, and other destructive ingredients that lead to a toxic work environment

You don’t want the people you’re managing to do what you say because you’re the boss. You want them to do what you say because they share your vision, they’re excited about creating it, and they trust you to lead them there. The number-one skill you need to create that kind of work environment is emotional intelligence

Becoming an Emotionally Intelligent Leader

You might be wondering, what is emotional intelligence? It’s the ability to understand and manage your own feelings, and to connect with those of others. It’s an essential skill for career success, especially if your goal is to be a good boss. 

There are four facets of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness 
  2. Self-management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management

Human beings have feelings, even at work. How readily do you recognize and understand your feelings? You can’t take responsibility for your own feelings, manage them effectively, and understand other people’s emotional states without first tuning into how you feel through self-awareness

Once you become aware of a feeling, you do something to regulate it. This is self-management, and it’s especially important when you’re under stress at work. For example, when you’re exercising good self-management, you may notice when you’re starting to feel frustrated with a coworker, and take some time to calm down before providing them with feedback, rather than saying something out of frustration that will hurt their feelings and damage the relationship. 

Next, emotional intelligence requires social awareness, or the ability to understand and empathize with others. When you have good social awareness, you can surmise how other people are likely feeling and use that information to make smart decisions about how you’re going to interact with them. You’re thoughtful about what you say, you choose good moments to have important conversations, and you know when to push people and when to cut them some slack.

Finally, emotional intelligence requires relationship management skills. At work, this looks like creating an emotionally safe environment where people feel comfortable discussing how they’re working together, so problems can be resolved and the team can keep moving forward. When you’re empathetic and approachable, you help create the kind of working environment where people will communicate openly and authentically, which is essential to accomplishing your mission.  

Most people believe they’re more emotionally intelligent than average, but it’s impossible to know for sure until you’ve done an actual assessment. We all have blind spots, or things that other people know about us that we don’t know about ourselves. Career counselors use a tool called “the Johari window” to help people understand themselves and their relationships with others, particularly how they’re coming off to their coworkers. It’s a quadrant with information about things you know about yourself, things other people know about you, and things that are known to both or neither. The only way to uncover the personal traits that are hidden from you is through an effective assessment. 

Working with a good emotional intelligence coach can help you assess your emotional intelligence, uncover your blind spots, and use that insight to improve your relationships with the people you’re leading.


Good bosses can recognize the strengths and the growth opportunities in the people on their teams. This not only helps them put the right people in the right roles, it helps them coach their people to develop as professionals. 

Different people need different things to grow. To be a good mentor, you have to be able to recognize where each team member is at, where they want to be, what their personality is like, and what motivates them. Then, you can guide them toward doing their best work. 


Delegation is an essential skill for leaders to learn, but it can be a lot harder than it sounds, especially for the hyper-competent, proactive types who tend to get ahead at work and reach leadership positions. 

Delegation usually doesn’t come with an immediate payoff. You have to ask someone to do a task, show them how to do it, and provide accountability to ensure it gets done. Sometimes, you have to do some or all of these steps multiple times. Eventually, if the person you’re leading is competent and coachable, they’ll incorporate the task into their work without having to be asked. But in the meantime, it can feel a lot easier to just do it yourself. 

If you take that approach and fail to practice delegating, it won’t take long for you to become overloaded, especially if you’re managing a large team. Many managers who arrive in career coaching feeling burned out really need help learning how to delegate.   

Delegating also means accepting that other people may do things differently than you would, which is tough when you’re someone who likes to be in control. Focus on the outcome you want, and be flexible when you can about the process that people use to create that outcome. 


Finally, being a good boss means practicing humility. It means recognizing that just because you’re managing others doesn’t mean you have all the answers. You will always have room to grow and learn, and the people who work for you will provide you with valuable feedback that will point you in the right direction — if you can create an empowered workplace where they feel comfortable doing so. 

When leaders won’t listen to the people they’re managing or take influence from them, it stunts their own professional growth and the growth of the organization. If you’ve put the right people in the right roles, you should trust them and welcome their authentic feedback. 

Becoming a Good Boss

If you’ve read this article and/or listened to this episode about how to be a good boss, you’re already on the right track. Maintaining a growth mindset and continuing to develop your leadership skills will serve you well, and will make life a lot easier for the people you serve through your leadership. 

If you’d like more support becoming a good boss, schedule a free consultation with a leadership coach on our team. 

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How to Be a Good Boss

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Music in this episode is by Luca Lozano with their song “Boss Moves.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to if further questions are prompted.

Lisa Marie Bobby: Hi, this is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. 

If you are a high-achieving person in a growth-oriented career path as sooner or later, it is likely that you’re going to find yourself in a leadership position. You’re going to be someone’s boss, and then a whole new professional development challenge opens up for you. How do you be a good boss? That’s what we’re talking about on today’s show.

You guys, we’re listening to Luca Lozano with the track “Boss Moves.” Luca Lozano is a very interesting artist. He is a musician, obviously, but he’s also a graphic artist. You can learn more about him at  or on his Bandcamp page, and be sure to check out the upcoming event next year that he is playing out in Croatia. If you need an experience of a lifetime, you may or may want to consider that. So thank you, Luca Lozano.

Okay, my friends, now let’s talk about your boss moves. Because this is the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. And I know we talk a lot on this show about relationships, about personal growth, and you know, all the different things that can help you achieve love and happiness and success in your personal life and in your own well-being. And I am of the opinion that our professional success and our vocations are also very important to having a good life, a truly happy and satisfying life. 

And so today, I want to pivot a little bit and talk about a different facet of professional development. Because we talk a lot about career development on this podcast. And I’ve certainly interviewed quite a few career coaches from Growing Self counseling and coaching, of which I’m the founder. And I found it’s interesting that many of these conversations with career counselors and coaches, so much of that begins to focus on what you want to be when you grow up, and then finding the right career path. Obviously, very important and worthy of exploration. 

If you are earlier in life, or even mid-career and thinking, “I am not really doing what I was put on this earth to do.” That’s important, and you need to figure that out. So, essential. But it’s also interesting to me that a lot of, I think there’s like a mythology around it sometimes. As soon as you figure out who you are and what you want to be when you grow up, and you land the job, then you’re done. You’re good, right? That’s where it ends. 

And this concept is kind of like believing that as soon as you meet the right person, who you are fundamentally compatible with, then you’re golden. You’re good, you know. You’re gonna have a perfectly perfect relationship forevermore. And there’s not really anything else to work on or discuss. And we all, I think, hopefully, know that that belief about relationships is not just misguided, but actively harmful to your personal relationships if that’s something that you subscribe to. 

If you’re not prepared to be actively growing and evolving in service of yourself, and your relationship, and your significant other and your family, if you don’t understand that is part of making a good life with another person, then you’re in for a really rough ride, and a lot of disappointment. And so I think that we all understand this. We need to work on ourselves and work on relationships. 

But the same is really true for your career and for your professional development. Being truly successful and satisfied in a career requires so much more than identifying what it is that you want to do and then getting the right job with the right organization. 

Certainly, those things are important. But to continue growing and then feeling satisfied and feeling successful means actively working on yourself so that you’re growing and evolving into the kind of person who’s able to function effectively at higher and higher levels of responsibility, communicate effectively with others, manage yourself effectively, think strategically, and then also be able to develop the kinds of relationships with others that are so vital to your professional role.

I think most importantly is the kind of humble self awareness that we need to carry with us to tell us where we need to grow. I think, especially in working environments, it can be very, very easy, and sometimes true to point the finger outside of us, right? Toxic work environments, difficult corporate cultures, unreasonable circumstances or expectations, like those things all can happen in different working environments, and that’s also not the whole story. 

I am of the belief that we have the ability to grow and evolve, and that we also have a lot of power in crafting our own life experience. That the way we show up in all of these situations, and the way that we’re actively working on ourselves can really change the outcomes. 

I think there’s a lot of disempowerment that can happen in career-related or professional-related environments, because I think that there’s less intrinsic willingness to look at oneself and how we may be impacting the situation, the system, the outcomes, rather than kind of thinking that it’s all external factors impacting us. Again, it’s true, there’s an interplay there. 

But you know what, this podcast is devoted to your empowerment, and so I think it’s really important to be talking about this facets of your power in order to help you be able to create the life that you want, right? So, where this really, really shows up for me with my career counseling and coaching clients that I’ve had over the years, is that when people are high performers, high achievers, obviously, very talented, doing a really great job in their professional role, there comes a point when they either choose to maybe start their own thing and start hiring employees, or get promoted within an organization into a leadership position. 

All of a sudden, there is not infrequently, kind of an existential and sometimes professional crisis that requires a lot of growth when people shift into that leadership position. Because even if you have been enormously successful and well regarded up to this point, the skills that got you into that position and role are not even close to the same things that you’re going to need to cultivate in order to be a really good leader. 

You may be an excellent worker, creator, actualized are all these things, but when you begin managing and leading other people, it demands a lot of new skills, abilities that are not always natural and certainly not the same thing that got you to the place that you are. It’s also true. I mean, if you think about your own life experience in the working world, if you’ve ever had a job, you’ve probably experienced maybe a not so great leader or boss, right, and the negative consequences of bad leadership. 

If you know that working with a bad leader, or I hate to use the word bad, right, underdeveloped leader, person who maybe should not be in a leadership position, individual who has not yet acquired the skills or abilities to be a good leader. So I don’t want to be so black and white about it. There’s good or bad. Let’s kind of frame that differently. But nevertheless, if you are with somebody who is struggling to be a competent and effective leader, or maybe is not aware that there are not competent and effective leader, you understand how it feels. 

It creates a lot of stress. It keeps others from performing at their best, maybe that’s happened to you. You felt beaten down or minimized or constrained in some ways by that relationship, and you know there’s an old adage, that I think is true. People don’t always leave jobs, right? They leave bosses. They may love the work itself, but simply cannot tolerate how it feels to be in that environment, or that the relationship is starting to feel really toxic. 

They don’t like the person they’re working for, the people that they’re working with, and that’s often the biggest factor of why people will leave otherwise good situations. So obviously if you are in a leadership role or considering moving into one or see that as being likely in your future, I know that you do not want to create that kind of environment where morale is low or turnover is high, or that people are feeling bad about their relationship with you or the environment that you have are shaping for them, right? 

I believe that you want to be an inspiring, effective leader that knows how to do a good job in this role. Obviously, you’re an ambitious person. You wouldn’t be rising to this point if you weren’t, and I think a worthy goal of this ambition is to figure out how to be a good boss, how to inspire a team, how to support people in doing their best work. I know from working with others, but also my personal experience and growing into a leader, now, of an organization where we have, geez, 50 or 60 people running around here these days. 

I mean, it’s a steep growth curve. It is hard to do. It is humbling for days that not, and it’s also a worthy endeavor of growth and personal exploration. So that’s what we’re doing on today’s show. We’re going to be talking about the skills, the mindsets that you need to be a good boss, so that you can continue to accomplish these professional goals in a way that feels good for you and also feels good for others so that you’re creating a workplace where you’re having a good time, other people are having a good time and where talented people want to stick around and give their best. 

So let’s just dive right into this exploration. First of all, I think that there are some really important factors to consider when you’re in a leadership role, or if you’re considering being in one, and we’re going to start with some really, really foundational stuff. The spotlight now is going to be turning on you, you slash me. I mean, we’re in this together, right? 

But I think that there is a very just of primary importance thing that needs to happen in order to be an effective leader, which is, first of all, self awareness and a degree of humility to be able to sit with and really reflect on this question. Are you actually leadership material? Hmm, I know that that’s a tough one. That is hard to think about. Many people want very much to be leaders, to be managers, to be in the role of guiding and supporting others, and this is not an intrinsically natural state of being or gift that everybody has. 

We’ll be talking about the specific factors that go into effective leadership, but as we do, I really want you to be asking yourself, Is this me? Do I have this? Do I do this? Or am I willing to work on myself really, really actively in order to be able to grow into the person who is relatively competent and skilled in these different areas? I tell you what, it is okay, and probably the best for everybody if after listening to this discussion, you leave here thinking, you know I’m not sure that this is really right for me. 

I think there’s a lot of wisdom in this because if you’re employed by an organization, business owners often promote based on performance and an execution role, right? Scott is one of the very best software developers we have. He really knows his stuff, and I think he’s the one to mentor and lead this team. 

That’s often what it looks like, because there’s an emphasis on productivity and like the work that needs to be done and the operational factors and all of these, whether or not Scott has the personality, the relational abilities, the emotional intelligence, the cognitive abilities to be able to strategically think and plan and go into the future, mentally. I mean, this is all very different from doing the work itself. Scott is sitting here thinking, oh, cool, it’s a promotion. 

It’s a change of title. It kinda makes me feel good to think about being a leader. I’ll get a raise. All this is good stuff often sounds attractive, but then it’s not uncommon at all moving into that role feels very, very frustrated, overworked, overwhelmed. Life just got about 1,000% harder. Relationships feel difficult. I mean, Scott is not having a good time, and neither is anybody else. 

That’s a very common outcome, and the answer is often in, okay, Scott, so now you need to learn a whole new set of things and ways of being that has literally zero to do with actual software development or 20% to do with the actual software development, and a whole lot of other factors. Scott, do you want to do that? Do you want to? Because it may be the case that Scott really enjoys doing the work of development and goes into flow. 

He’s able to solve problems and think creatively and make things happen through his gifts and abilities and his knowledge of software development and actually enjoyed that a lot and is now feeling fairly uncomfortable and frustrated on a daily basis, when he’s being asked to do things that he is not innately as talented at that. He is uncomfortable with, that there’s a growth process. 

He has a lot of new stuff to figure out and learn, and that if he’s not really that interested in doing the work, it would be better for him and other people and probably the organization for him to have the self awareness and humility to be able to own that and say that and without feeling any shame or of failure. I think that is an honest and valid thing to say. I prefer to be a creator. I prefer to be an executor. 

I prefer to be the one solving problems and doing the work and making cool things happen. I’m comfortable here. I’m good at this. This is my place in the world and almost step away from this sparkly golden mirage of, air quote, leadership, right? Because many things that we enter into with good intentions and a lot of hope and excitement, look better on the outside than they do on the inside. 

I think for a lot of people, the leadership role is one of those things. Similarly too, many people will have success in a role where they are talented. They have found they’re good at something, and now they decide to start their own business, doing that thing or in that industry, and quickly find out that starting, running, managing, operating a business has even less to do with the work itself much of the time than it does, this whole other set of organizational skills. 

There are many more, I think, components of starting a business than there are moving into a management role. Maybe we’ll do a podcast on all those different facets. But I mean, most of starting a business is not management at that point. So we’re gonna limit the focus of today’s conversation to that, but it’s also certainly a factor. When you start a business, sooner or later, you’re gonna have employees and know how to lead people, and so that is just one of the important skill sets that a business owner needs to grow in. 

So there is a lot here. So that’s step one to really think about this and educate yourself on what being a good boss involves and doing some very serious soul searching of, is this me? If not, how motivated am I to figure out how to grow into that person? 

So let’s then shift into talking about the kinds of skills and abilities that are required to be a good boss, to be a good leader. We could make a very, very long list of the skills and qualities but I think a short short list would certainly include things like being able to see into the future to a degree, to be able to think strategically about where we are now, where are we going and what are all of the little pieces that need to happen in order to get us from here to there, needing to visualize something that doesn’t exist yet, and then figure out how to create it. 

Along with that, being able to define what success looks like for the people who are going to be part of achieving that outcome. It requires a lot of clarity about goals, about the why behind things, and this could be something that you are in charge of creating for a team. I think that that’s part of being a leader is to be a creative partner, at least to a degree with a business owner. 

I think this is certainly easier in smaller organizations, as opposed to being in a very large organization where much of this is divided for you. But even so, to have a hand in shaping it and to be able to communicate where you’re going, why you’re doing it, what needs to be done in order to lead things forward into the future, and not everybody can think that way. It’s a very creative kind of thinking, honestly. 

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a creative person, maybe you’re not coming up with grand ideas and like how we’re going to make the magic happen, but even around planning out projects, planning out processes, thinking about what needs to happen organizationally in order to bring things into being, even if it’s like creating a schedule around who does what, right? 

There is a level of creative problem solving that just has to be part of that role or otherwise, nothing is going to happen, and it’s going to feel frustrating, I think, for the people around you too, because that’s what they’re looking to you for. Then, once you have some of that figured out, and you’re able to put all those pieces together in your mind, it also requires being able to communicate that effectively to others in a way that feels good for them, creating clarity for other people, but also being able to mentor and develop others in a safe and authentic way, which requires being able to really understand who other people are, what are their personalities, what are their strengths, what are their opportunities for growth, what are their motivations, what are they good at, and where do they need to grow. 

That requires a high degree of psychological mindedness, the ability to understand the minds and feelings of others, emotional intelligence, right, being able to have empathy for other people’s feelings, being able to kind of tease out, like why people are doing, what they’re doing, what are they reacting to, and also what they need from you in order to have a positive experience. People need different things. 

The definition of emotional intelligence is being able to understand yourself and being able to regulate yourself, but also being able to understand other people and being able to modify your own way of being in order to help another person have a positive experience with you. So this is a huge component of leadership, because if you don’t understand how you feel, you don’t understand what your triggers are, and you also don’t understand, really, how to moderate or regulate your own stress, anxiety, frustration. 

It’s going to be very difficult for you to communicate clearly, communicate in an emotionally intelligent way. It’s very easy and common for people in leadership positions to feel stressed out, frustrated, overwhelmed, and not even realize that they are creating an emotionally unsafe environment for the people around them, because of this power dynamic. 

If you are communicating in an aggressive way or a frustrated way, and not understanding that the person that you talk to is pretty sensitive to that, it’s very easy to alienate people and to create a lot of resentment and anger because of that. It’s also very difficult to create a functional work environment and a positive organizational culture if people do not feel emotionally safe. 

It’s also very difficult to have the kind of relationships with other people that are necessary in order to be an effective leader if you’re not very good at regulating yourself or your own emotions, or if you’re not really understanding the feelings, the motivations and the truth of other people, because that’s also vital to successful leadership. Part of this role is about understanding others, talking to them, facilitating emotionally and psychologically authentic conversations, where you’re able to truly enter into their mind. 

Who are you? What do you want? What are you good at? To be able to have conversations with other people where they feel safe enough with you to say, you know what, this, this and this, I feel really comfortable with. I feel like I have a certain degree of mastery over the skill set, but in this area, I feel like I’m struggling. I feel like I’m falling short, or I’m not really able to do this. Here’s where I really want to learn and grow. 

Or to have a kind of relationship with an employee where they can say, I don’t know that this is the right role for me. I am really struggling in this area. Because that is also not at all uncommon when you’re leading and mentoring and coaching and developing other people that you can run into limits, you can run into situations that require the need to make some difficult decisions for you and for them. 

So these skills, these soft skills, the ability to understand and communicate with others in emotionally safe way, the ability to support other people and their professional development goals, to create the kinds of relationships that allow for those sorts of conversations, zero to do with software development. So I hope this discussion is kind of helping you understand what this particular role involves. 

If you’re just listening to me talk about what a lot of leadership involves, and you’re here thinking, no, actually, no, I don’t know that I love that. I don’t feel like I’m here to be a counselor or to be a coach or to really look into the hearts and minds of other people. I think I do struggle with emotionally safe communication actually, and I’m not sure that I want to devote a lot of my time and energy and effort into developing emotional intelligence skills. 

I would be much happier actually just sitting here coding my whatever. Again, totally okay. I think that a big component of finding genuine and authentic success in a professional role long term is that kind of self awareness, that sort of honesty, and being able to say, this is my happy place. This is where I feel good. This is what I enjoy doing, and this is the intersection of my talents, my abilities, and also the value that I can bring to an organization. 

Okay. It’s okay to respectfully decline a leadership position. I’ve also personally worked with people who have really wanted to be in a leadership position. They really wanted to grow in this area, but just in terms of the way their brains worked, in terms of their personality, just not really able to understand the whys behind things, not able to do the kind of strategic thinking that leadership requires and also not able to kind of personally communicate or be in an energetic role of creating the kind of clarity, direction accountability. 

Even having a tendency towards conflict avoidance can be a very real barrier towards effective leadership. I think that there needs to be a certain level of courageousness, bravery, the ability to say and do difficult things. If somebody just has a more passive personality and is much happier, sort of, waiting to be told what to do, rather than being a very kind of energetically proactive person, a leadership role is just not going to be a good fit, and again, it’s okay. 

Now, it is also very, very true that we can grow. I think that’s why we’re all here, right? Maybe my growth edge is to kind of lean into that humility, self awareness and saying, I’m not that. I’m never going to be that, and it would be better for everybody if I stayed in more of a technician role. I am better suited to be a gloriously talented and effective worker, fantastic, exit to the right. Going back into that growth mindset, a lot of the things that I was just describing to you are abilities and qualities that can be cultivated and can be learned. 

I believe that if you would like to be a good boss, one of the most effective and important things that you can do is to first get involved in some serious emotional intelligence coaching, beginning with just an assessment to see how you are with that currently. Emotional intelligence is one of these things that if you ask anybody, how would you rate your emotional intelligence, they would say, I’m so emotionally intelligent, like, you look up emotional intelligence, there’s my picture, Ahmed, 10 out of 10. 

Because it’s very, very difficult to really understand our own blind spots. There is a concept in psychology and in coaching that is very important here, and we’re going to be talking about this on upcoming episodes of the podcasts, but it’s called a Johari Window. This is a way of understanding our own self awareness. If you could, please imagine with me a quadrant. So we’re going to in our minds create a square in our heads that has four different quadrants. 

So if there’s a square and kind of like a plus sign in the middle of it, now, you have four different quadrants, and these quadrants represent the areas of our own self understanding. One is things that we know about ourselves and that other people know about us, too. These are the things that are known. I know that I get stressed out about this situation, and I love that and everybody else around me also knows that it’s very clear. 

There are also things that we know about ourselves that other people don’t know. They are hidden to others, but maybe very much in the forefront of our own minds. These are the things that we feel are secrets, right? There’s another quadrant where, interestingly, there are things that we don’t know about ourselves, but that other people can see in us. That may be a little concerning to realize, but it’s very true, and as a counselor, where I am often working is in that quadrant of things that people know that other people don’t. 

I am the keeper of secrets, so we talk about secret things, and that’s okay. I am also operating oftentimes in that quadrant of things that people don’t know about themselves, but that I can understand through conversations with them, by talking with them. But there is yet another quadrant that I think is even more challenging, and that is things that you don’t know about yourself, and that other people don’t know about you. They’re difficult to see. 

Since you don’t know them, you can’t talk about them. So many times what therapy and counseling and insightful growth oriented coaching can do is begin to pull some of those out, the totally hidden things into quadrants where either you become aware of them, or ideally, your counselor or coach can begin to see them. Why I wanted to mention this process is that emotional intelligence is much of the time in the quadrant of things that you don’t know about yourself, but that other people know, or oftentimes in that completely unknown quadrant. 

You don’t know it, and other people don’t know it. This is why doing a self assessment of your emotional intelligence abilities is very difficult to do, because most of this stuff is literally happening in domains that you do not have awareness of. So by working with a counselor or a coach who specializes in emotional intelligence coaching, there are assessments and also, working with somebody who’s very well trained in this area, they will be able to see things in you and in your story and help you raise the stuff into your awareness so that you have the ability to be able to learn and grow. 

So if you desire to be a really good boss and a really effective leader, it will be very important for you to get involved in a personal growth process where at the very least, you are able to emerge from that with a clear understanding of your true emotional intelligence and a clear awareness of what your growth opportunities are in that area. 

Ideally, and here’s the plan forward, if basically everybody you do have some work to do on this area, you’ll be able to come out of that work for a play on of, okay, here’s what I need to do to be understanding myself or regulating my own feelings. We’re effectively, particularly at work, but also at life, of being able to communicate effectively with other people, being able to understand other people with empathy, with insight, and then being able to manage those relationships really effectively, because those are core skills of effective leadership. 

Everything else in terms of the nuts and bolts of what you’re going to be doing day to day comes from those core abilities, so very important. Now, the next piece of great leadership that I do also think can be developed can be built in yourself, if this is an area of growth, is being able to build the kind of relationships where you get to know people very well and are able to figure out what their strengths are, what makes them tick, and creating emotionally safe relationships about their long term growth goals, and also where they feel at their best, where would they like to grow, what do they feel that they are intrinsically good at, and where they enjoy. 

I’ve heard this called desire zones, right, this intersection of the things that I am good at, and the things I enjoy, and what feels exciting to me, and also, where am I in development, right? Because being a good leader requires being able to make sure that you have the right people in the right roles. You can’t do that kind of assessment and moving around if you don’t have a really clear picture of who people are and what they can bring to the table. 

Related to this, of course, is the ability to have a lot of clarity around what those roles are, what should they be, what is the work that needs to be done, who needs to do what in order to be able to help us create these outcomes. So as a leader, here’s this creative visual, or maybe not visual, but certainly, a visionary component of seeing this imaginary outcome in the future that doesn’t exist yet and being able to break that down into 500 steps and stages and who’s going to do what and how are all these pieces going to come together. 

Then being able to sort of see this team as a whole and think about, okay, which player is good at what thing, and who’s going to be bringing which of these pieces to the table so that we can collectively and together assemble this desired outcome that doesn’t exist yet. So to have that kind of clarity about who people are, what is the work that needs to be done, who’s good at what requires being able to do very serious like critical thinking, strategic thinking, analytical, future oriented thinking that involves consideration of whether or not the people you are leading are, one, do they have the skill sets have the abilities to be able to do what I need them to do? 

Or are they able to be coached or developed or mentored into the people that I need them to be in their roles? Or consider, is there a different role on this team that this actual person would be better at than what I’m asking them or expecting of them to do right now and being able to move some things around? Or, and this is also an outcome, given my deep understanding of who this person is and what they’re capable of and what the work in this role requires, is it actually better for both of us and for this organization if we were to liberate each other and not be making each other miserable in this relationship if there is a mismatch of expectations? 

Another, I think, point that is surprising to leaders, and certainly something that I’ve had to work on in this role, is the assumption that people understand what it is that you really need them to do. You can even look into organizational research to find this. People in leadership positions can often assume that people who they work with and who they are leading have the same level of understanding about what’s going on, what needs to happen, what the expectations are. 

When you ask employees about this, they actually don’t know. They don’t understand. So, a very important point of growth for leaders is to be able to go to great lengths to be communicating very clearly, potentially over and over again, sometimes in writing, breaking things down to ensure mutual understanding on both sides. I personally have been humbled so many times by thinking that I am communicating something clearly. 

We’ve had a meeting about it. We’ve talked about it. I left the meeting feeling like there was mutual understanding, only to be surprised later, that there wasn’t, and I put this on myself. It is my job as a leader to make sure that people understand that, to make sure that we’re aligned around priorities, goals, visions, what’s supposed to be happening, when is it supposed to be happening, and it’s harder to do than you think it is. 

So there are many schools of thought on how to do this, writing down objectives, writing down visions, doing collaborative kinds of team activities in order to ensure this on both sides, but to put a lot of energy into that, and also to be courageous and to be honest and having authentic conversations when despite those best efforts, despite your abilities to mentor and communicate and guide and lead and have these expectations. 

If it’s not happening again and again and again, and you as a leader are working really hard to manage yourself and to communicate clearly and to understand the people that you’re working with, totally okay to have honest conversations about the disconnect, because that in itself can be a doorway to growth. It may be the case that the person that you’re working with doesn’t even know that you are feeling unhappy with our performance or why, right? 

I mean, these are courageous conversations. They’re vulnerable conversations. If through your knowledge of this person and you’re careful, I think exploration of their true self, if you as a leader feel that there is an opportunity to coach, develop, to mentor, that by being clear and by providing more training, more support, more education, more mentorship, more coaching, this could improve, I think that that’s part of our role is to facilitate that kind of growth and the people that we work with. 

If for whatever reason you come to believe that that is simply not possible, that this person’s fundamental way of being is out of alignment with the values and culture and goals of the organization and if there is an inability or unwillingness to work on that, it’s, again, also totally okay to make the decision that everybody would be better off if we did something else, and that’s okay. Yeah. I mean, it’s like a relationship in that way. 

If after a lot of earnest, sincere, authentic, committed work, at the end of the day, people are just so far apart that even at their very best version of themselves still not gonna be good enough for each other. Then making the decision to mutually part ways with confidence, clarity, compassion, and just clear understanding that it’s for the highest and best of all involved, but don’t shy away from the courageous conversations that will help you know that for sure. 

So a lot of interpersonal skills are coming out here, and there are yet more aspects of great leadership and being a good boss that are also potentially very, very difficult to do that are even not related as much to the relational pieces. Although you certainly do need to have a positive relationship with other people to do this next phase, but if you are able to see the path forward clearly, here are the stepping stones that take us off into the future, and here is what I need you to do. 

Here’s what I want you to do, here’s what I want you to do it, and I am going to be holding you accountable for following through with that. That is a aspect of leadership that can also be really uncomfortable for some people. I know that this is where I have really struggled over the years as a leader like I just my own psychological makeup. I tend to be fairly good at the relationship part, always stuff to work on related to clarity and communication. 

But what I have discovered over the years is that my just intrinsic nature, my way of being is not very much around kind of hard edges. I tend to be a more psychologically flexible person. I tend to be a more empathetic person with myself with others. So like hard boundaries, hard deadlines, you didn’t do what you said you are going to do. Why is that? That is actually been one of my biggest growth areas as a leader, which can sometimes, I think, be surprising to others who are more naturally inclined in that direction, but that can be a big area of growth. 

I think, for me, too, I have to get more organized. I have to have clear plans in place and in order to be able to communicate those to others and have legitimate expectations that other people would follow the plan. There has to be a plan. So that can be an area of growth for many leaders, also being able to put a lot of time and energy into developing systems, thinking about what do we need to do to grow.

What kinds of professional development or training opportunities can I create for the people that I’m leading in order to help them grow? Are the systems that we’re currently using to do the work, are they good enough? Are there opportunities for improvement there? What are our processes? There’s all of this thinking that sort of like the circumstance around the process, right? 

If I am consistently not getting the results that I would like, why is that? Is it something systemic? Do we need more education? Is there a communication gap? What are we doing to keep ourselves organized? Where can we grow and improve, not with just the day to day tasks, but with the actual process itself? That can be an important part of reflection. Another essential task and skill that is difficult for many people in leadership positions to do, and this has also been an area of growth for me personally, is the ability to delegate well. 

Particularly if you know how to do something very well and know the back of your hand, and then are in a leadership position where now you’re directing the work of others to do this kind of work or create these kinds of outcomes, it’s very easy to make a lot of assumptions that people know how to do it, that they know it as well as you do. 

There is a surprising amount of time that can need to be put into communicating that, getting clear about what needs to be done and delegating work to others that, especially if you have done it in the past that in itself can feel difficult and frustrating to the point where many people in leadership positions are like, oh, that’s fine, it’ll take me five minutes to do it. I’ll just do it as opposed to spending three hours trying to teach somebody else how to do it. 

So as the net result, many people in leadership positions are doing a lot of the work that actually their team is that’s their job description. Leaders can very easily heap a lot of responsibilities onto themselves, even subconsciously, if they’re not really, really actively working on their delegation skills. 

I know I have found myself in this position more than once, and it happens, I think, again, a lot of times unconsciously. But really, there needs to be a learning process for leaders of how do I delegate, how do I ask other people to do the work, how do I set clear expectations, how do I provide accountability, because otherwise, at the end of the day, the buck does stop on you. 

It can create a very destructive dynamic, where leaders are really just keeping everything and everything and everything on themselves. It feels very much like if I don’t do it myself, it won’t get done right, or I don’t have anybody else to do it. Or all these things which creates burnout, it creates exhaustion. It creates a mental and emotional dynamic, and a leader that is exactly the opposite of the kind of inner space that you need to be in, in order to have emotionally safe relationships with other people. Again, it’s very common and something to really watch out for and work on intentionally if you start to notice in yourself that you have some learning and growing to do in that area.

Another very important aspect of good leadership is being psychologically flexible and open and humble, and in a growth mindset yourself that when you’re in a leadership position, you’re not just talking with other people about who they are and what they need to be doing in order to produce good work, but also, really having the kind of relationships with other people where they feel safe and empowered to give you important feedback about how you’re doing. 

If there are aspects of the way you’re relating to them or communicating or presenting work that are not working for them or for others, it is vitally important that you know about that, so that you can take that on board, consider it and figure out what your growing edges are as a leader, but also in terms of like, “How does this organization need to grow? What do we need to be doing differently, systemically in terms of our processes in order to create better experiences and a more productive working environment for our team?”. 

So, there can be a balance, right? I mean, we began this conversation by talking about how easy it can be as an employee, right? To have a disempowered mindset, where we’re pointing the finger at others and blaming everybody and everything else for the problems or the challenges or the obstacles that we’re experiencing, right? So, there can be some of that, but that’s often a personality factor and if you’re doing a great job of having the right people in the right seats, and if you are confident that you’re working with people who are able to do the work, to have the kind of thinking that you need them to have to be. 

They’ve really feel like active creative partners, problem solvers, workers, like if you have confidence and trust in them. They’re telling you that things feel problematic. The way you’re communicating does not feel good. The systems are not working. This is creating stress and anxiety for everybody, and we need to do something different. It is vitally important that you’re listening to that and behaving responsibly in terms of, “Okay, thank you so much for telling me, I wasn’t aware of that, and we’re going to work on this. I personally can work on this. Thank you for illuminating this thing that I was not fully aware of, and we’ll certainly, let’s see if we can make some systemic changes that make this feel better going forward.” 

Those are the kinds of experiences that the people you work with need to have with you in order to feel that it’s a positive organizational culture, that they’re valued and respected as people, as well as workers, but also that they are actually in an empowering and emotionally safe environment. If people get in trouble for being authentic, if people get punished for having feelings, or providing feedback that all is not well, not only will that damage those relationships. I think it also stunts the growth of an organization, because you’re not listening to people that are there to help you grow too. So, I just wanted to mention that. But that’s, I think, another really important part of this job. 

So there’s a lot that goes into being a good boss. We haven’t even talked about your own personal productivity skills. Are you able to hold boundaries with yourself and say, “No.” or say, “Yes.” with a lot of discernment? Are you able to be realistic about plans, deadlines? Are you really kind of breaking down these components so that other people can understand writing skills, communication skills? I mean, there is so much, it’s probably worth mentioning personal productivity skills sounds like, I don’t even know something that’s just easy to say, but like what does it mean. Your ability to stay organized, to keep track of yourself, to manage your own time well, to have realistic expectations of the amount of work that you’re able to do in certain amounts of time and also that of others, that in itself can be a very difficult skill set to acquire. 

I think it’s also important for many leaders to have a realistic awareness of their own relative strengths and limitations in that area, too. One of the things that I have learned about myself, and I’m very well aware of, is that I’m not like a “tasky task” person. It’s sending emails, scheduling things like those little operational. This needs to be checked off the list kind of thing. I am not that person. Luckily enough, I have worked with people who are extremely good at that. They’re like, “You give me the list. I’m going to check off that list and that is my happy place.” So there’s a lot of synergy around that. 

So I think to also not insist that everybody be just like you and amazing and exactly the same way that you are, but really to be looking for and valuing people with diverse strengths and skill sets, and figuring out how to create that kind of collaborative synergy in some ways. We’re all bringing out the best aspects of each other and having a lot of appreciation for things that people bring into the role that are really vital. I mean, I think a healthy organization, there needs to be a visionary component. There needs to be ideas and excitement, and “Here’s what we’re gonna do”, and “Here’s the vision.” But then also a lot of appreciation for the actualizers that make it happen. 

I think that management, being a good sort of mid level boss, is that intersection of the two, right? It’s being able to generate enthusiasm and vision and like, here’s the path forward, but also being able to manage a lot of the nuts and bolts of the day to day, getting your hands dirty when it requires, being really good at delegating when it isn’t, having the wisdom to know the difference between the two, being able to create action plans, and timelines, and accountability, and boundaries, and emotional intelligence, and communication. It’s a lot. So that’s why leadership coaching is a thing. Emotional Intelligence coaching is a thing and can be a very, very important part of the professional development process. 

So, I hope that this discussion today has helped you get more clarity about “What being a good boss involves?”. I hope it’s given you pause in some ways. If you aspire to be in a leadership role, I think it’s extremely wise to be considering these things very carefully and thinking about if it’s something that you want to do at all valid. If the answer to that is yes, I hope that this discussion has also given you some direction on how to even begin developing the skills, strategies, and mindsets in yourself and in others. 

So some resources for you, if you are interested we have a podcast, let’s see, “Managing up”, I believe was the name of the podcast that I did with a wonderful career coach on my team that talked about cultivating positive relationships with others, and that’s useful, whether I think you’re an employee, or whether you’re a leader to talk about the kinds of relationships that you want to be having. 

We’ve also talked a bit about toxic work environments on past podcasts, which is just sort of a cautionary tale of what not to do that I think that you could find helpful, and then certainly a number of different episodes on emotional intelligence, courageous communications. Gosh, I think how to have difficult conversations is what that one was titled, and also too on career exploration and some of the questions that you need to be asking yourself if you are moving into a leadership role or considering it that will help you get clarity about what your gifts and talents and interests really are and whether or not they are in alignment with a leadership role. 
Okay, my friends, that’s all for today. Thank you so much once again for being here with me, and I will be back in touch with you soon with another episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. In the meantime, we’re all gonna enjoy some more Luca Lozano and All right, take care.

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