My colleague Deb Brown recently posited her view on a Fast Company piece arguing that nice bosses finish last . As Deb notes, the article is less about mean bosses being more successful and more about the importance of being direct and, if necessary, tough in order to succeed.
Deb thinks one can be nice and successful at the same time. I don't agree. I think it's more important to be direct and honest, to the point of being blunt if necessary. I believe employees want clarity. They want to be led. They want someone with a vision who can clearly communicate it. Once that's been accomplished, one can add a spoonful of sugar.
Employees also want a leader who isn't afraid to fire underperformers. Nice bosses want to be seen as one of the guys (or ladies). They shy away from sharing bad news. They let consensus rule the roost until inertia sets in. Most importantly, they want to be liked (as opposed to being focused on building the best business possible).
All of this can be done with a smile and, as Deb suggests, by showing vulnerability. But, decision-making isn't for the faint of heart. And, I agree with the Fast Company POV that tougher, more direct bosses do better than their weaker, sweeter counterparts.
I've worked for nice guys and true a**holes. I loved chilling with the nice guys, but they never motivated me. The a**holes, on the other hand, always inspired me in one of two ways:
- I worked harder than ever in order to prove them wrong, or
- As was the case with the Green Bay Packers players coached by legendary mean guy, Vince Lombardi, I pushed myself to the absolute limits to achieve results my a**hole boss thought impossible.
Do I like working with nice people? You bet. Is respect in the workplace critical? No doubt. But, give me a tough, direct boss any day of the week. Save the consensus thinking for the Beltway (which, BTW, is how our country got in the fix we're now in: a dearth of tough, decisive leaders. Where's Harry Truman when you need him?).