Becoming a Boss

The best boss I ever had was named Nikki. She was probably in her late 20s, early 30s and I was only 19. Nikki thanked me and every employee when we left for the night, which always baffled me because I had been paid to go to work and to complete certain tasks, hadn't I? She always evaluated my work with a keen eye and provided guidance, while still letting me expand my creativity and use my own talents to the best of my ability.

When she promoted me, it was always to areas of the business that I was able to continue to grow, learn and develop. And, for me, the most significant thing she did was show compassion and empathy for me as a human being and my life outside of the walls of work.

Don't get me wrong, if I came in hung over she expressed little sympathy for my headache, previous nights make-up and pale green complexion. But the day she watched me struggle with a sorted romantic relationship full of complexities, she sat me down and told me I was worth more than what he was giving me. She looked me in the eyes and meant every word she said. And while some people, especially those entrenched in the corporate world, would say what she did was unprofessional, I do not.

Nikki gave me strength and knowledge in that moment. She offered a clarity I'm not sure I would have found on my own. She also shortened the time I would have sulked outside smoking cigarettes, made me get up and get back to work without saying those words at all.

When I became a boss, I thought about all the bosses I'd had in the past. I thought about the kind of boss I wanted to be and how I would use the good things and get rid of the bad. Only I didn't realize that being a boss would be the hardest job and responsibility I would have, second only to being a mom.

I've made all sorts of mistakes as a manager. Too many to count or list. But I don't ever think that caring about my employees on a professional AND personal level has ever been one of them. Like Nikki did for me, I want my employees to know that they can lean on me. Why? Because that's how they know I care and when they know I care about them on a human level they will be more inclined to work for me, perform, go above and beyond.

Sure, I have had an employee take advantage of my management style. The important thing as a manager is to recognize it, address it and move forward in whatever way makes the most sense. I'm not saying it's easy, but like I said before, it's the hardest job you'll have. There will always need to be a balance, I just believe that the balance doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice being a person and caring. I find that my employees have more respect for me and are willing to go the extra mile because they know that I am willing to do the same for them.

In life there are times when you should be authoritative with no regard for others, I propose though that being a manager, even being a CEO, does not require you to be tyrannical or inhuman. To be a great CEO, a great manager, requires innovation, integrity, creativity and, most importantly, empathy.

The world is full of intelligent and innovative people, but only a few are truly amazing leaders. Perhaps what separates the two is the ability to balance it all while still remaining human.

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