The Sharpening Stone – Would You Want You for a Boss?

Have you ever seriously pondered what it is like serving under your leadership in the workplace?  Would you want youfor a boss?

I spend most of my days providing executive coaching for leaders of businesses and other organizations, and as I get to know these individuals, I can’t help but ask myself, “Is this someone I’d like as a boss?”  The answer is usually “yes,” but sometimes it’s “maybe” or even “eh, probably not.”  Of course, the kind of leader who is likely to bring out the best in me may differ from the kind who can bring out the best in you, but those differences are not likely to be dramatic.

Take a moment for a quick Google search on “What makes a good boss?” and you’ll find endless lists on the subject.’s “top 12 qualities of a good boss” recommends that job-seekers look for someone who is: passionate, consistent, cool-headed, personable, open-minded, attentive, humble, decisive, honest, motivating, appreciative and aware.  Other lists add things like transparent, clear, organized – but the various lists really don’t look much different from one another. I like all that stuff in a boss, and you probably do too. I wish I was stellar in all those areas, but I’m not.  And you’re probably not either.

Here’s a simple exercise that may help you grow into the kind of person that you would willingly follow – to become the kind of boss who helps others thrive in their work.

Step 1: Generate a list of the characteristics of the kinds of leaders who bring out your best, and who you willingly follow.  If you’re feeling brave, do this as a brainstorming exercise with your team on a whiteboard.

Step 2: Rate yourself on a 1-10 scale on each item on the list, depending on how well you exemplify that characteristic.  Again, if you are feeling brave, you may want to ask your team members to rate you as well. If you go that route, however, you’ll have to find a way to make it safe for people to be truthful.

Step 3: Choose 1-2 items from the list that produced the lowest ratings. Target those areas for improvement over the next 30-60 days. Tell your constituents that you are doing so, and then circle back with your team (and your boss) at the end of the 30-60 day period for feedback on your progress.

This won’t cost you much in the way of time or money, yet it may yield big dividends in your effectiveness as a leader.

About the Author: Rob Skacel, Ph.D.

Rob is a licensed psychologist with senior executive experience. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Franklin & Marshall College, and Master’s and Doctoral degrees from Purdue University. Rob began his career in the field of clinical psychology, splitting his time between patient care and management responsibilities. Within a few years, he began the transition to business psychology specialization. He has since held senior leadership positions in sizeable for-profit and non-profit organizations, where his responsibilities focused on performance improvement and organizational development.

Rob founded True Edge Performance Solutions in 2000, and maintained it as a part-time venture for a number of years as he continued to accrue executive experience. By 2006, True Edge had grown to the point where it required Rob’s full-time attention. Over the years, Rob has provided services to dozens of leaders and their organizations, in a variety of industry sectors such as manufacturing, professional services, health care, agribusiness, construction, education, non-profit, and trade associations.

The Sharpening Stone

The Sharpening Stone is a series of short videos from True Edge designed to sharpen leaders and their organizations.

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