When people ask me for my leadership advice, one of my favorite things to tell them is that being a boss is like being a sheep dog: sometimes you bark at the sheep, and sometimes you bark at the wolves.
Accepting a job as a supervisor or manager is about making a personal commitment to the people who report to you. It’s about making a decision to dedicate yourself to your employees’ success and continued growth by ensuring that they have all of the resources, training, and organizational support that they need to excel at their jobs. When you’re an individual contributor, your performance is measured by your personal success. But when you’re the boss, your performance is measured by the success of the team.
Barking at the Wolves.
We have all had bosses who we knew weren’t watching out for us. Who wouldn’t go out of their way to defend and support us in difficult situations. Who would just take whatever was thrown at the department, even if it meant their employees would suffer. Outrageous deadlines, training budget cuts, unfair policies, and on and on. A good boss is willing to bark at those wolves and defend her sheep. Lack of security is one of the primary contributors to job dissatisfaction. Make sure that you are doing everything that you can to defend your employees from the wolves. Those snapping jaws have their own agenda and will try to achieve it at your expense.
Barking at the Sheep.
This is the more familiar aspect of being a boss. Obviously, sometimes you need to tell people what to do. But even when you are in that situation, remind yourself that your primary responsibility is to take care of your employees. When you are directive, do it for the benefit of the people that you are responsible for, not to enhance your own reputation or to deflect blame. Yes, a sheep dog barks at her sheep to get them into the pen. But she does it because it is her responsibility to keep them safe and well cared for.
Being a boss is about balancing both of these behaviors to ensure that your flock is both protected and under control in order to help them achieve their highest potential.