Good Boss Bad Boss Bob Sutton

A ‘Manager’ is not a ‘Bad Leader’, but a ‘Bad Boss’ – manager or leader – is a ‘Bad Boss’.

All too often, ‘Management’ is derided as merely the evil inverse to the much lauded notion of ‘Leadership’. I always counter that ‘bad Leadership’ is not ‘Management’…bad Leadership is just that…’bad Leadership’. But if you want to know what ‘bad’ Leadership or Management is, a great place to start is Bob Sutton’s refreshingly sober piece in the Harvard Business Review called “12 Things Good Bosses Believe”.

Sutton, who I’ve cited before, really focuses is on the impact of the manager on the team member. While such a positive ‘good boss’ relationship certainly pays strong dividends, I think that there are other important qualities leader/manager bosses need to master in order to be successful in the eyes of stakeholders, not just their staff.

What struck me is that 10 of those 12 ‘Beliefs’ touch on themes which prevail in both the Leadership/Management and Embracing Failure sides of this blog. I would actually further distil his points into 3 core themes…

  • Balance upside (empowerment, being right, new ideas) and downside (assertiveness, being wrong, bad ideas).
  • Mind the grubby work of the mundane, small wins, idiocy and negative (a form ‘downside’ and adversity to be embraced).
  • Embrace failure.

Specifically, the points he identifies (with links to drill downs into these areas)…

  • Balance –
    • “#4 – One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.”
    • “#6 – I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.”
    • “#7 – I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my people to do the same thing”
    • “#9 – Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too.”
  • Grubby Work –
    • “#2 – My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.”
    • #3 – Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day.”
    • “#5 – My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my people from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe — and to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well.”
    • “#10 – Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.”
  • Failure
    • “#1 – I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.”
    • “#8 – One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is "what happens after people make a mistake?"

(thanks again Chris)