For most of us, slogging through work and taking commands from bosses from hell, this may seem almost ludicrous. It's been found that employees who think of their bosses as "partners" are significantly happier than those who think of their managers as merely "bosses."

Bosses as partners? It may not be your own reality, but don't laugh just yet. Science is fully backing this idea in a paper recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Millions of responses pooled over a period of several years revealed that the happiness boost workers experienced in partner-boss relationships (especially for mid-lifers juggling the demands of professional and family life) was "equivalent to the increased satisfaction that comes from more than doubling your household income," according to the paper.

Who's laughing now?

According to The Washington Post, which first covered this study, "people with boss-supervisors exhibit a much more significant drop in life satisfaction between their early 20s and mid-40s" as opposed to people working with partner-bosses. 

But still, it's understandable if your cynicism is quick to judge this a bucket of crock. Our worldview of corporate bosses, supported by numerous studies and our own unfortunate daily experiences, holds true that most bosses aren't fit to lead other human beings to bold destinations.

Partner-bosses require these traits

It will require drastically shifting that worldview, both for employees aspiring to find better and healthier work environments and for bosses reimagining a new way of leading. To do so, we have to study the best evidence to help us determine an accurate baseline for modeling the behaviors of "partner-bosses" we want to replicate inside our organizations.

Here are a few examples I've found by studying the evidence over the past 15 years.  

1. Partner-bosses put employees first.

It's been found numerous times that excellent customer experiences rely entirely on excellent employee experiences, because it's the employee who makes or breaks the customer connection. Partner-bosses understand this and see extreme value in their workers; they'll pour into their career growth and development and remove obstacles from their path so they can perform at a high level.

2. Partner-bosses connect with their employees.

A big mistake someone new to a leadership role can make is to enjoy all the perks and privileges that come with being in a leadership role and slowly distance him- or herself to avoid any meaningful involvement with the team. This sort of "absentee leadership" is classic rookie territory but nothing you'll see coming from a great partner-boss.

3. Partner-bosses release control.

Eventually, a good boss will become a great partner-boss once he or she does something very counterintuitive: surrenders control. In sharing their power and decision-making, delegating tasks, giving access to critical information, and releasing their control over people, a partner-boss will foster high trust and high risk-taking.

4. Partner-bosses ultimately aim to improve the lives of others.

Plenty of evidence suggests that the best leaders motivate and inspire through actionable and practical love, serving the needs of employees before their own, which has been shown to improve performance and lead to business outcomes. 

And partner-bosses are no different than so-called "servant-leaders." In fact, they may be one and the same. They understand that their role is to make those around them better on a human level so the whole enterprise succeeds.

Partner-bosses set a high bar for themselves. Every day, they walk out the door on their way to work thinking about the answer to one very powerful question: What am I doing today to improve the life of one of my employees?

Published on: Oct 22, 2018
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