Do you have a kiss-ass boss, a political boss, or a boss that should have stayed an engineer? Let’s find out.
As part of me going out on my own and taking a look at part of my career and the many jobs that I’ve had as an IT, I want to reflect back to some of the bosses that I’ve had. I would like to see which boss would be similar to some of the bosses you had to figure out if you see any of these characteristics in the boss that you had in the past or present.
In the Beginning
I started out in IT in 1998, at that time, I had a boss that was crass, very blunt, non-political, hated the system, but was a hell of a worker.
He was a pretty good leader, he allowed us to do what we needed to do with some good direction and was generally one of those bosses that not a lot of people outside of our little sphere liked. He didn’t put up with any shit. He didn’t put up with anybody’s frivolous things of politics, he hated all that stuff and that’s what I really liked about him. When you get to know him personally, you found out he was a really good guy. That was my first boss.
Second Boss Experience
My second boss was the political boss. He was the kind of boss that did everything, he looked up constantly at his superiors. There would be times where he would tell us we needed to do something because somebody above him said too.
We would balk at some of the things he’d say because he’d let stuff trickle down. He did everything that the boss told him to do, he would never question it. He would never do anything, he played the political game like a champ, like a chess game. He was always looking for the next strategic move.
We would say this isn’t the right thing to do. We need to configure the server this way, we need to put anti-virus on these servers. “No, no, no, my boss says the anti-virus causes problems and we can’t put it on there.” Obvious stuff that management doesn’t have any idea about but wants to go ahead and do it anyways.
One Boss Who Shouldn’t Have Been
Another boss that I’ve had in my career is the brilliant engineer. He should have never had a management position in his life. What I mean by that is, there’s a key difference between a great technical person and a great leader.
An engineer has a very left brain, logical, usually not an introvert, not really a whole lot of social skills but a brilliant engineer, problem solver. You give him a problem with anything, he would be able to come up with a solution in no time. Very forward thinking, was able to solve problems before they even came up.
He was the engineer that wouldn’t tolerate anybody that wasn’t as intelligent as he was. Wouldn’t solve a problem the same way, he was very black-and-white. You would get something done and for all intents and purposes, it was fine. It fixed the problem but he didn’t think it was that way so he would go on a tirade on you. There would be times this guy would rail on me so much about the stupidest little details.
For example, in the data center, he noticed that one of the hard drives in a Raider was failing on one of the servers. He approached me about it and asked if I saw the failing hard drive. I said yes, I was in the datacenter and I saw it. He gave me a “are you stupid” kind of look and shrugged his shoulders asking me what I did about it. He railed on forever about this.
I still remember to this day, that was the only time in my career that I almost cried because I was proud of what I was doing. I didn’t have much self-confidence and self-esteem as what I should have had. I was a pretty good tech and he would put you down constantly because you’re not up to his skill level. That’s the engineer guy that shouldn’t have been a leader.
More Types of Leaders
The next manager guy was a shrugging his shoulders motto. He didn’t care about anything, and you could tell he didn’t care about his job, he just wanted to go home. He was just getting by on the absolute minimum amount of work he could do.
He was the kind of guy that did not lead whatsoever.
The only time you would hear from him is when his boss would be on him and he would just let shit go downhill. Normally good leaders would filter what they would get from their managers and lead and provide some kind of direction.
He treated you as a peer and that’s good in some sense, but you don’t want your boss to constantly pass the buck. “He’s on my ass again, will you just do this for me?” But, if he was not getting anything specifically told to him, you could do whatever you wanted.
The next boss I call a leader. I’ve only had maybe two of these kinds of bosses in my entire career. These bosses are technical enough to get down into code with you and to understand the technical problems to a degree where you can make good decisions and ask good questions of you and get some insight from you.
They also have the leadership skills to build the direction of where the team needs to go, the strategic goals. They weren’t just fighting the fires kind leader, they would produce. Every week they would have these meetings. Normally I hate meetings, but when you have a meeting with a leader it’s different because you get inspired and motivated.
They have fulfillment in your career, and these leaders are the kinds that have the technical expertise, leadership skills, social skills, they are typically respected.
I respected them because not only did they provide great leadership, they were stern, they were able to straddle that line between stern and an asshole. When you respect somebody and they say, “we've got to get this done like now” you’ll drop everything to do it. The leader hasn’t been told what to do, he’s coming up with his own way.
The leader would never say even if his superior told him that he needed to do something, he would never actually tell us “the engineers” that his boss told him to do something. Instead, he would make it sound like this is a business thing that needs to be done and we just need to get it done, and how can we do it? He also asked a lot of questions. He would ask what you think it’s going to take to get it done, and when you could have it done by? Really inquisitive, asking lots and lots of questions.
Do you see your boss in any of these situations? If you do, I want to let you know to always look for that leadership boss, look for somebody that’s inspiring, somebody to ask questions rather than barks commands. Think twice if your boss says, “well my boss told me to do this, you have to do this”. Ask for a leader, be happy about your career because when you are, you’ll be much happier and fulfilled with your work.