Everyone has a great boss story. Mine takes me back to 2005. I reported to an executive in a midsize hospital in Los Angeles. To this day, Bruce is my favorite boss because of his servant-leadership style. For example:

  • He didn't get caught up in his positional power and he made me feel like an equal.
  • He was the most approachable boss I ever had, despite his executive status.
  • He allowed me the freedom and autonomy to make important decisions.
  • He provided me with all the resources I needed to become a better leader.

While he was still "the boss," I was much more satisfied and engaged in that job that I was at any other time during my corporate career.

What worked so well for Bruce and all his direct reports can be framed into one powerful paradox: 

  • He never led from the top-down;
  • He shared leadership from the bottom-up.

Here are two shared-leadership principles Bruce practiced with his team daily, as many of the best leaders do.

1. He facilitated a shared purpose that gave our work meaning. 

The key word here is "facilitate." Bruce communicated an image of the future that drew us in--that spoke to what we were seeing and feeling.

Bruce gave his team a destination: we knew where we were going.

He gave us a purpose that answered the question, "Why do we do the work we do?" We knew what greater good we served, and that kept us focused on the end goal.

He made sure we operated by shared values we all agreed on--the very principles that guided our decisions and actions on our daily journey.

With these three components clearly defined for the whole team, a tremendous amount of energy, passion, and productivity was unleashed.

We had a higher level of commitment because we were able to see the relationship between the direction of the organization and what we personally believed in and cared  about. After all, this is what we signed up for when we joined the organization.

As our leader, Bruce communicated an image of the future that spoke to why we were doing the work, and how our work contributed to the bigger picture.

2. He shared his power.

Because Bruce had real relationships with us built on two-way trust, he was able to share his power and release his positional control by serving the needs of his tribe first. It wasn't about Bruce and, in turn, employee loyalty was off the charts.

Instead of leveraging his positional power for personal gain, self-promotion, or demands for special privileges, Bruce put his people in positions of leadership to stretch their growth and develop new strengths and roles for them.

Bruce modeled risk-taking, creativity and open communication for the whole team. By sharing his power and releasing control, he actually gained real power, pumping fear out of the room and removing obstacles in our path. We had his back, and in return, we unleashed discretionary effort and did amazing work. What's your great boss story?

Published on: Apr 28, 2018
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