Why the best boss is not always the most intelligent

The worst leaders are not those who don’t know how to do their jobs but those who lack motivation

Ruben Montenegro

Why is not everyone happy with their boss? There are many possible reasons, but there is one simple explanation: the wrong person was promoted. Or, to put it better, because in most organizations the only way to recognize or reward good workers is by promoting them. Unfortunately, this decision can end up hurting more than one person.

Becoming a good boss requires training, patience, but above all, motivation

Talent is not universal. Let’s think of a great salesperson. What they like to do is make sales, to understand the needs of their clients, to have the freedom to organize their day and not to spend too much time in the office. However one day they are promoted and their duties change: they can keep some of their important clients, but they have to do more reports and spend more time improving their team. They may not know how to do this, but this is something that can be fixed. The real problem is when they do not want their new role. This is when the once amazing worker starts to get frustrated and becomes a nightmare for everyone around them. It is an example that can be applied to a brilliant employee in any field: be it an engineer, a nurse or an IT worker.

Managing people requires certain skills. As Marcus Buckingham metaphorically puts it, an excellent leader doesn’t play checkers, he plays chess. In checkers, all the pieces are the same and are  interchangeable. In chess, however, every piece has a unique and different role. This means that a good leader has to know their team well, encourage meaningful conversation and spend time on the three keys to building motivation: What are the strong points of each team member? What can inspire those talents? And what is their style of learning? This is the only way team members will be willing to give the best of themselves.

No one is born a leader. Becoming a good boss requires training, patience, but above all, motivation. But being appointed a boss should not be the only way your company recognizes your work. You can be an extraordinary professional without ever being a boss. And that’s fine too. Indeed, sometimes it’s better to stay in this position without having to deal with the difficulties of leading a team.

Ask yourself: am I just looking for social and financial recognition?

To sum up, the worst leaders aren’t the ones who don’t know how to lead, but the ones who can’t be bothered to – either because they don’t enjoy it or because they would rather spend their time doing different things. So, let’s not force ourselves to do what is not necessary and try to juggle too much.

First, we have to be honest and ask ourselves: am I really interested in managing people or am I just looking for social and financial recognition? (Remember bosses don’t always have it better, although it might seem that way from the outside, they have their own struggles too.)

And secondly, as much as possible, we should follow the example IBM set decades ago. Businesses should offer a path for workers to be bosses and managers, but also provide another path for workers who do not want to manage other people (though logically this is only possible for companies of a certain size). It is only when a person is comfortable with what they are doing and is motivated that they will be happy in their job and in life, and as a result, make the lives of the people around them easier as well.

English version by John Clarke.


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