A colleague recently posted on LinkedIn that his career success is credited to the six bosses he had worked with over the years. Then he realized they were all women. I told him he was “a lucky guy.”
While research espouses the value of women as leaders, I only had two female bosses in my forty plus year career. I grew up, professionally, under the leadership of men. Like any boss – male or female – some were great, some were OK – and a couple of the others caused harm to those who reported up to them.
One thing is consistent with each of my bosses. Whether they led with wisdom and integrity or were driven by their own ego, I learned from all of them. Sometimes it meant reframing what was unpleasant into an opportunity – an opportunity to bring out the best in someone else.
I learned how to build a story and how to engage with people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. I learned how to network and be prepared for meetings. I learned how important it is to be on time – even a little early. I learned how to manage down, sideways and up.
Most importantly, I learned that great bosses are human and flawed and not afraid to be vulnerable. Their vulnerability instills trust. They are truth tellers and meaning makers, leading with transparency and doing their best to provide clarity that drives a strong sense of purpose within their teams.
From them I also learned to give the same respect I expected. I learned to not limit myself, to take risks and learn from venturing into the unknown. I learned that we all come to work with our own “stuff” and coping through any given day is the best we can bring. I learned to trust my heart. And I learned how to take care of me.
Well, I’m only sort of good at that last one. I’m still working on it.
I propose an exercise. In one column write the name of each of your bosses. In the column next to their name, write what you learned. Good experiences and bad all have value. What did you take from each of those experiences to become the wonderful person you are today? What sense have you made of it? And how do you put it to work and lead in your life?