GREAT LEADERS

8 Easy Ways to Be an Extraordinary Boss

High-class leadership means doing both the little and the big things necessary for your employees to flourish. Here's where to start.
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A few years ago, I interviewed several dozen highly successful CEOs. In the post "The 8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses," I provided a summary of what I learned. That post, however, was missing something important: the implementation plan.

With that in mind, here's where you start:

1. Encourage diversity of viewpoint.

Average bosses create teams where everyone thinks the same way. Extraordinary bosses seek to draw upon a multitude of viewpoints and opinions, and thereby better understand what's happening in the market and what can be done to take advantage of the market conditions. They don't set artificial quotas but instead hire and promote in a way that avoids uniformity of thought.

2. Kill and eat your cash cows.

Average bosses cling to the products and processes that made them successful. Extraordinary bosses know most products and services have a relatively short lifetime before being replaced by something else. They know that the "next generation" will probably use a totally different technology and be sold and marketed a completely different way. They are therefore more than willing to sacrifice and replace current products and services, especially when those products and services are selling really well.

3. Speak from the heart.

Average bosses try to be businesslike and remote, hiding their emotions behind jargon and weasel words. By contrast, extraordinary bosses speak honestly about their goals and desires, admit their own vulnerabilities, and ask for their employees' help and understanding. When their team wins, they express gratitude. When their team loses, they commiserate rather than criticize. Then they figure out how to do better next time.

4. Create a climate of trust.

Success in business means achieving a dream together even when that dream seems impossible to achieve. However, people can't possibly believe in the impossible when they can't believe the leaders who are asking them to accomplish it. People know instinctively when a boss is lying and then feel entitled to tell lies in return. By contrast, building a culture of truth-telling lays the groundwork for inspiration to fill the imagination.

5. Encourage fraternization.

Average bosses love perks like executive dining rooms that separate bosses from the hoi polloi. Extraordinary bosses prefer perks like game rooms and free lunches that promote social interaction, both between groups and also between managers and employees. The goal: Make it easier for employees to build friendships so that everyone understands that "those people aren't out to get me because we're all in this together."

6. Become more family friendly.

Average bosses view families as distractions from the real business of getting work done. Extraordinary bosses, however, know that numerous studies show that productivity is greatly improved by the presence of on-site child care, and that working from home makes parents more productive. Extraordinary bosses, therefore, help employees be less distracted and more productive by seeking ways to help them become better connected to their families.

7. Support and fund hands-on volunteerism.

Average bosses see corporate charity in terms of arm-twisting fund drives (think "United Way"). Extraordinary bosses encourage group activities--like bake sales, benefit concerts, and school mentor programs--that create social interaction, thereby building a stronger sense of community both within the company and with community at large.

8. Reduce bureaucracy by dispersing power.

Average bosses accumulate decision making power at the top, which inevitably leads to the creation of bureaucracy (think "Federal Government"). Extraordinary bosses know that bureaucracy and centralized decision making creates friction and overhead, which eventually slows growth. Extraordinary bosses thus tend to disperse power downwards, thereby creating flatter, more adaptable, organizations.

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IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Mar 11, 2014

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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