The Boss Wants It

by Wiz

in Lessons,Podcasts

When I was a teenager my oldest brother once brought his whole family home for a visit.  One evening we’re about to sit down to supper, and I went outside and called to my three-year-old nephew, “Come on in the house, Tom.”  This blond, red-cheeked “angel” stopped and, with a big smile on his face, retorted “You’re not the boss of me!”  (I can only imagine what my parents would have done had I said that to my uncle, but I digress.)  I said “Well, your dad wants you in the house for supper.”  That did the trick.

Later, during one of my military leadership classes in college, the professor cautioned us about saying things like “the boss wants…” or “the captain says…”  This is especially tempting when you know that what you’re about to say is going to be unpopular.  But when you use those phrases, you’re essentially saying to your people “Hey, this isn’t my idea!  I’m only doing this because the boss wants it that way.”

The problem with this, my professor said, is twofold.  First, you’re demonstrating that you’re more concerned about being popular than taking charge.  You’re training your people to respect the boss and not you.  You’ll have zero credibility with your organization – they’ll subconsciously start thinking “you’re not the boss of me!”

Secondly, you’re undercutting your boss.  You’re telling your organization that you disagree with him – in other words, the boss is wrong.  And your people start thinking, “If he’s not gonna back the boss in front of us, will he back us when he’s in front of the boss?”  Doubts about your integrity and loyalty will soon emerge.

My professor taught us – and my own experience has borne this out – that your people are a reflection of you as a leader.  How you treat them is how they treat you.  You want loyalty?  You demonstrate loyalty, both to them and up the chain of command.  You want respect for your authority?  Then you demonstrate respect for your boss’s authority.  This isn’t always easy – but as the cliché goes, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.”

Today’s podcast is a discussion of one of the earliest US naval leaders.  He was a successful businessman, an extremely competent mariner, and experienced leader.  He seemed to be the ideal choice for his job . . . but he had one problem.  Check out the story.  I’m looking forward to your comments on this one!  (5:56)

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

DJ Warren April 3, 2012 at 10:25 pm

I could not agree more with what the Wiz says about respect, loyalty, and courage. In the military, these are all very important and key attributes of a good leader. In the Army, you never say because the boss says so or the boss said to; when you are in the Chain of Command then it’s coming from you. You treat the order and implement it as if it were your own, because in essence, it is. Even though you did not initially give the order, it was given to you and now you have to implement it. When you speak to your subordinates, the order is always coming from you and you never say because the boss says so. You’re in charge, the Soldiers already know who its coming from; man up and give the order like it’s your own.

Respect is mutual and not a right: the Soldiers or your colleagues might respect your rank or position, but that does not necessarily mean they respect you as a person. I always treat people the way I want to be treated, regardless if they outrank them or they outrank me…as the old saying goes “respect costs you nothing, but disrespect can cause you severely. On the other side, you are not in charge or command to be friends with every colleague or Soldier. That is not what the Army pays you to do. It pays you to get the job done. Popularity has no place in the Army; however it does not mean you forget that you are dealing with real people who are human beings just like you. It’s a balancing act in the Army. If your there to make friends or concerned about the way some people view you in some popularity contest, you are in the wrong business. Bottom Line: Sometimes what the boss says is not what you want to hear or do, but when you are in the chain of Command you embrace the order and ensure its implemented as if it was your own.

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