So You’re the Boss—Now What? How to Be a Successful Leader

Business.com / Managing / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Leading people takes skills and everyone has to find the managerial approach that works best for them, their employees and the organization.

When you’ve finally started your business, often after years of research, long nights and longer days, it can feel like a dream come true.

But businesses are meant to grow, and with any success, your business has grown too—big enough to warrant the hiring of employees.

Suddenly you are thrust into a new role: the boss. Yes, you were the “boss” before, but hiring employees can force you to reexamine your abilities as a manager and CEO.

Leading people to further your successful company takes new skills and everyone has to find the managerial approach that works best for them, their employees and the organization.

Related Article: 5 Things Your Manager Doesn't Want You to Know

Even seasoned managers can make it a New Year’s resolution to become an even better manager.

Stepping into the Role

Stepping into a managerial role is a learning process. Though there are certainly courses and books available to learn how to be a great boss, the person entering the role must also learn by experience—often by making mistakes and learning from them. This is especially true if it is your own company as you create the company culture and you dictate how it’s run. Though experience is the best teacher, there are some guidelines that can help you get started.

Don’t Control—lead

Many new managers stumble at first, says Harvard Business School professor Linda A. Hill in an article in Harvard Business Review. This often occurs because new managers blindly accept untrue myths that can hinder the path to becoming a successful manager. Instead, Hill recommends replacing these myths with realistic ideas about the position.

One of the leading myths is that new bosses must “control their direct reports,” meaning that they expect their employees to follow orders without question. In the real world, however, subordinates may not follow orders or respond well to a demanding manager. Even if they do follow orders, they may do so begrudgingly and at a lower standard than if they had felt respected by the manager—and they may not feel the need to go above and beyond, instead settling at passable.

According to Hill, getting the most out of employees means the manager must demonstrate three traits:

  • Character – the boss shows that he or she wants to do the right thing
  • Competence – they know what the right thing is and how to do it
  • Influence – the manager shows they have the ability to get the job done

Employees do not like being controlled; they want to be able to prove that they are capable of achieving great things for the company and for themselves.

Focus on the Team, Not the Individual

Hill also says that managers mistakenly believe that focusing on one-on-one interaction and relationship building is key to a successful team, but it is the relationship of the team as a whole that is more important. Individual attention can damage relationships with other employees, as some may see anything from a desirable task to a new work computer as preferential treatment.

Like a machine, businesses only run smoothly if all the parts (in this case, employees) work together. New managers should schedule regular group meetings in order to hear the thoughts of the group instead of scheduling many individual sessions.

Loosen the Reins

It’s your business, so you know what’s best—right? Unfortunately, that is usually not the case. A person hires others to help grow the business, often because they don’t have expertise in that particularly area: sales, marketing, web development, or public relations, for example.

While you may feel you’re just trying to help your employees achieve the best results for the business, it’s important to trust that you’ve hired the right people who can handle their responsibilities independently. Don’t demand minute-to-minute reports or try to coach everyone (too often, at least) on how to best do their jobs.

Ask for Help

While you can learn everything on your own, sometimes it’s important to actually ask someone for help—even if you’re “in charge.” As the owner of the business, there is often no one above you that can offer guidance within your own company. You’ll need to look elsewhere for this type of advice: friends, former business associates, relatives, or even acquaintances that can become your mentors. There is no shame in asking for help—and it will lessen your stress, knowing you have someone who’s “been through it all” to help you shape your managerial style.

Related Article: Hiring Your First Employees: How to Go From Your Own Boss to The Boss

Being Your Own Boss

When you first hire employees, you may feel the need to be available 24/7 for them to answer questions, settle disputes and set direction. But in the end, you’re also the boss of yourself.

It’s important to balance being the boss of the team and managing your personal responsibilities, which can often become overwhelming. This is the time to take a moment (or a day or longer!) to rest and come back with a refreshed and recharged mind—and lead, not control, your team.

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