You’re the Boss with Your Boss

Accountability Books Management Teamwork


Remember that you are as responsible for the relationship with your boss as he/she is with you.

Being the Boss: The Three Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader, co-authored by Harvard professor Linda A. Hill and executive Kent Lineback, was picked by a number of critics as a 2010 superb book to read if one wants to advance their career.  The book covers three core areas:  manage yourself, manage your network, and manage your team.  There are many outstanding insights in the book and in this blog; I want to highlight one of the perspectives. Many people I have worked with complain about the shortcomings of their bosses and put most of the burden for the status of relationship on them. Professor Hill brings a view that is valuable to reflect on:

“It’s common to let the person up the chain be most responsible for whether you have a healthy relationship, but you’re equally responsible. If you don’t manage that relationship right, your team is not going to be able to do what it needs to do.

Powerlessness corrupts as much as power. You shouldn’t feel powerless with your boss. That’s not the deal. You have to figure out the sources of power you have to influence the boss. You also have to see the boss as human and fallible in all the ways that you’re human and fallible, and figure out how to deal with the reality of who that person is—rather than the ideal of what you’d like that person to be like. There are really bad bosses, and you can’t be naive or cynical about this. It’s hard to be successful with a bad boss, and sometimes success means figuring out how to get out of that situation. But before you decide that’s the deal, you need to take responsibility for the relationship, because it’s definitely two-way.

Today many people have multiple bosses, and we also discuss the challenges there. One of the most common missteps is to deal with the boss who’s closest to you physically and treat your relationship with your other boss as out of sight, out of mind. So we talk about how you have to manage the priorities between those two bosses and how to negotiate what will be your priorities, given their priorities.”

  • Action: Take honest stock of what we’re doing to improve the relationship with our boss or bosses.

Be a Boss in the Triangle,