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Leadership In the Mines

October 26, 2010

I once had a boss who told me that our company’s leadership philosophy was called “Mushroom Management.”

“Mushroom management?” I asked, confused. I had not heard about it in any of the corporate training classes.

“Yeah, it’s pretty simple,” he said. “This is how we treat people: keep ‘em in the dark, feed ‘em a load of  crap, and can a bunch of ‘em every now and then.” He broke out into a roaring fit of laughter as I slunk down in my chair.

Good Boss, Bad Boss

I think we can safely say that “boss” and “leader” are not necessarily interchangeable terms these days.  Just because someone has been promoted to a position of greater responsibility does not mean that they have amassed the competence or people-smarts to be effective in that role. In fact, a lousy boss can make a worker’s life miserable.

Bob Sutton, a professor of psychology at Stanford, has made a career out of calling out bad bosses. He is the author of the best-selling book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, and also has a Blog, Work Matters, where he doles out advice and research on boss behavior.

Sutton glibly pronounces an ominous tag line: people don’t quit organizations, they quit bad bosses. The impact managers have on the workplace is huge.

So what does a good boss look like? Sutton’s definition is very simple: He or she promotes both performance and humanity, and strikes a healthy balance between the two. Great leaders and bosses, he says, are both competent and benevolent.

Click here to continue reading this post at The High Calling.

Photo by Firesea, used with permission.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2010 9:05 am

    I’ve worked for bad companies but the boss made it all better and I stuck it out. I’ve also worked for good companies with bad bosses and I’ve left.

    Managers have such a strong impact on their employees, they don’t always realize it. Really, we are just looking for leaders.

    I love the stories from the mine, how the leadership kept them focused, alert, and hopeful.

    Yesterday, here in Denver, a wedding party of 17 got stuck in an elevator for more than an hour. The groom stepped up and took control of the situation, dispelling fear and dishing out encouragement.

    And something we all need to remember — You don’t have to wear a title to be a leader.

  2. October 26, 2010 12:11 pm

    Bosses really do make or break a situation. I fear the day that I might be the “boss” to break it for those below me.

  3. October 26, 2010 6:54 pm

    competent and benevolent
    sounds good to me

  4. October 28, 2010 8:22 am

    I like the Chilean miner example as I hadn’t really heard about the leadership there. On the flip side, I’ve worked for very benevolent folks who weren’t necessarily great leaders.

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