Being a great leader takes drive, persistence, expertise and great managerial skills. But when you’re a low man on the totem pole, senior status seems light years away. So what does it take to climb the career ladder? While there isn’t one simple secret to success, bosses across all industries share tips and traits that are essential to getting and keeping the corner office.
Be a Good Boss, Not a Best Friend
You spend more time with the people you work with than some of your closest friends. But it’s important not to get too close, especially when you’re the boss. Your employee shouldn’t be crying to you about a bad date or playing the “friend card” if something goes wrong at work, thinking you’ll go easy on them. Of course there are times to joke around and analyze reality TV, but keep work relationships professional, not too personal. No matter how much you like and appreciate your employees as people, you have to have boundaries. There’s a fine line between boss and “best friend.” As a group leader, your staff should trust you and feel comfortable talking to you about any work related issue, knowing you’ll have their back and help provide a solution. But keep it at that. — Lawyer, Boston
Trust Your Team
No matter what job you are the boss for, if you have staff it means there is too much work for you to do it all yourself. You have to trust your staff to make good decisions, and be open to taking their advice. That said, you need to ask them tough questions, and not forget how what they’re working on fits into the big picture, because as a manager you are responsible for seeing how it all comes together. — Chief of Staff, Washington, DC
Be a Good Listener
If you work in an industry with clients… listen. Don’t be defensive and don’t “NO” a client. If you don’t see eye to eye, communicate and come back with a different point of view. But saying no without another opinion or thought isn’t going to get you very far. Also, when dealing with colleagues, if you don’t have an answer when asked a question, don’t make up one or answer with a statement you don’t believe in. It’s OK to say, “Hey, that’s a great question, let me do some research on that and get back to you.” Then, do the work. No one expects you to have all the answers on the spot, all the time just because you’re the boss. — Account Director, San Francisco
Invest in People
Being a good boss isn’t just about making sure your staff gets the job done. Taking the time to mentor, teach and critique them shows you’re invested in your people, not just the work. This makes employees feel more valuable, and encourages them to go the extra mile because they know it really matters. It’s up to you to build the next generation of leaders within your organization. — Producer, New York
Patience is a Virtue
The key to being a good boss is having patience. It may take a bit of time for your employees to learn how you like things done but with good instruction and some patience, chances are they’ll get it. Another tip is to always speak to your team as you like to be spoken to. The nicer you are, the more respect you’ll get! — Magazine Executive, New York
Deadlines exist for a reason and expectations that are set by yourself and your team must be met, on a timely basis. Setting dates and expectations is easy. Following through in a timely and organized manner is tougher. Letting the team know expectations ahead of time and following through, without being alarming or pushy, will keep the team focused. A good boss should be patient, understanding, and should positively reinforce. It’s important to let the team use their talents. But you have to be organized and stay on top of their business. — Financial Analyst, New York
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
Don’t take credit for all the great work and blame others for things that don’t go well. The only way to really earn the respect of your team is for them to know you’re in it — good or bad. Plus, when anything goes wrong, you’re responsible if you’re in charge. Double and triple check everything before you sign off on it to cover the bases. — Communications Specialist, Chicago
Jessica Solloway is a Washington, DC based writer and producer. From wedding planning to work, dating to dieting (and everything in between), she enjoys writing about women’s lifestyle topics. Jessica received her degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Check out her blog, The Savvy Mrs.