A good boss is a servant leader

Happy 2024.

As the old year turns into the new year there are often added pressures.

Where it is acceptable to move a meeting from June to July or from October to November, moving a meeting from one year to another seems much more epic, and rude, so maybe the last weeks of the year have been especially fraught with added pressure to squeeze catch ups in?

For organisations with calendar reporting there is all the busyness of finalizing year-end figures, and crystalising business plans for the next 12 months.

Then there are awards, the new season is also starting with Campaign Media Deadlines in January.

Is your boss putting pressure on you to get stuff done at an even higher rate of agility than usual?

Bosses increasingly see the benefits of being in the office together and want to see you there.  So, getting you physically in the office is an overriding agenda too, which can be an added pressure to a difficult work life balance for some.

Bosses shouldn’t be adding pressure of course.  That isn’t the role.  A great leader will be working as hard as possible to alleviate pressure and find hacks to make your work simpler and less hassle.

Our popular culture doesn’t reflect this does it.  It’s locked into a 20th century, even Victorian, notion of the boss as tyrant, making unreasonable demands and not caring about anything more than the results. 

From the wonderful Sylvie in Emily in Paris to the iconic Katharine Parker played by Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl, to 9 to 5, The Office and Horrible Bosses and all stations in between there are a myriad of caricatures of rubbish managers.

And where are the good bosses on screen? Few and far between.

In our best-selling book (with Kathryn Jacob), The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, one of our anonymous interviewees told us about the need to ask your boss for help, not to assume that they just expected you to Just Do It.

She told us that she had taken a big promotion but felt really out of her depth. In fact, she confided that after her first few weeks she was completely miserable, not sleeping properly and she felt like she was

letting her new boss down badly.  She had found out that she wasn’t superwoman.  Well, nor are any of us.  What she needed to do was ask her boss for help.  Because her boss wanted her to succeed.  Of course, he did, he’d promoted her, and her failing was only going to cause him more problems. 

This is true of everyone.  Always remember that your boss needs you.  But they might not know, unless they are mind readers, what you need from them.

In an ideal world your boss would prioritise your welfare.  In Agile ways of working (of which I am a huge believer) the notion of the Servant Leader is pre-eminent.  The role of the team leader is simple, to control workflow to make sure it is realistically manageable, and to remove barriers from your path.  And the daily standup and transparent KanBan ensure that the leader can do this.

Not everyone works in this way of course.  Your barriers or difficulties might not be clear to your manager, and remember they have their own problems, and pressure.

So, take time to communicate what you need from your boss.  Manage your manager and try to manage your team better than Sigourney.

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