Being the boss means that, to achieve goals, you not only have to be personally inspired by your job, but you also have to inspire those around you. But what if you're terrible at it?
Though there are countless good bosses out there, there are an equal number of ineffective leaders. According to the Great Boss Assessment survey by S. Chris Edmonds, founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group, only 45 percent of survey respondents say their boss inspires their best efforts each day. Fifty-eight percent say that their boss treats them with trust and respect daily — which means that 42 percent of bosses treat team members with distrust and disrespect.
"Bosses can be bad by micromanaging and not giving employees the autonomy to do great things," said Bruce Cardenas, chief communications officer at Quest Nutrition. "These can really derail a boss's standing in the workplace, because it could hinder someone's drive to do a good job."
Furthermore, bosses can be bad if they don't appreciate their employees, Cardenas added. [See Related Story: Are You a True Leader, or Just a Boss?]
Amy Casciotti, vice president of human resources at TechSmith, a software company that provides practical business and academic software products, said that these traits contribute to poor leadership:
- Poor communication. It's very frustrating for employees to have a boss who doesn't communicate well to provide his workers with clear direction or expectations.
- A micromanager. When bosses micromanage, it shows a complete lack of trust in their employees to do their jobs correctly.
- Playing favorites. Bosses who play favorites with employees and give preferential treatment make poor leaders.
Not unlike any other team member, bad behavior from the boss can cost the team potential success.
"Having a bad attitude and treating people in an unkind way has a negative effect on success. I think this is one of the most fundamental, basic things in business," Cardenas said. "It has a toxic effect on the group when bosses should be positive and inspire people daily."
If you're realizing that your leadership skills need improvement, worry not: Your career can still be salvaged. Here's what you can do to become a better boss.
Communication is key
Whether it's a personal or professional bond, communication is the root of a healthy relationship. Being proactive about and open to communication will improve not only how you lead, but also how you're received by your team.
"Listen and observe more, talk and multitask less," said Matt Eventoff, owner of Princeton Public Speaking. "We all give clues as to what is going on internally on a regular basis. Those clues give great insight into how to communicate with your employees more effectively."
To identify potential issues before they arise, Eventoff suggests that you focus on employees' nonverbal communication, tonal and pitch changes, and changes in regular communication patterns.
Recognize your employees' strengths
No man (or woman) should be an island. That said, no one leader has even been successful without help. Good leaders celebrate the strengths and successes of those around them.
"Get good at spotting the strengths of others, including your direct reports, peers and your boss," Dr. Karissa Thacker, a management psychologist, said. "Research indicates that paying attention to the strengths of others is a critical element in developing others to be more successful, as well as building effective partnering relationships."
Understand the demographics in your office
Gaining perspective on your multigenerational office can make you a better boss as well. The way your baby boomer employee communicates may not be the same as that of a Gen Xer or millennial. Having a firm grasp on motivations and communication skills can help you as a leader in the long run.
"If you don't make the time to get to know your staff, you'll never understand them and be effective with that cohort of your staff. This helps break down those gaps," Cardenas said.
"Understanding what people value and what motivates them makes it much easier to communicate job expectations, offer the right type of support, or even make changes that will better suit certain teams' performance," Casciotti added. "Regardless who you are speaking with, you need to learn how they prefer to communicate, and implement those preferences into the workflow of the organization."
Remaining self-aware and learning from others will help you in the long run when it comes to your career.
"You need to lean on your subordinates and people that are in a trusted leadership position to learn from them. Not everyone is a natural-born leader, so there is an opportunity to absorb what other leaders at the company are doing successfully in their roles," Cardenas said.
Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan (Helmrich). Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.