Being the Boss: the 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader

By ,     Sep 6, 2011
President, Director & CEO of the Toledo Museum of Art

Brian Kennedy

NAS team

This post was the result of the efforts of several members of the staff

In many ancient myths, the hero’s task is to learn the name of the Beast. By addressing the Beast by name, the hero can control the Beast. Hill and Lineback name the many Beasts that torment leaders and managers, the paradoxes that both daunt and define the work of bosses. Leaders and managers are responsible for what others do. To focus on the work they must focus on the people doing the work. They must both develop people and evaluate them. They must make the group a cohesive team without losing sight of the individuals on the team. To lead their group they must manage the larger context beyond the group. They must focus on today; they must focus on tomorrow. They must execute and innovate. They must sometimes do harm in order to do a greater good.

The tension within each paradox is never fully and truly resolved, nor should it be. The “right” action will always be a matter of judgment, explaining why management is so stressful. The paradoxes also explain why the world needs managing, why becoming a successful manager is a lengthy, difficult, personal journey requiring self-knowledge. And all this happens in a dynamic workplace with a changing workforce.

Naming and explaining the paradoxes makes it possible to deal with them in a balanced and thoughtful way, i.e., through Hill and Lineback’s three imperatives: manage yourself, manage your network and manage your team. The balance of the work expands in extremely practical ways on these imperatives.

The book is a distillation of Linda Hill’s almost 30 years at Harvard Business School (HBS) where she has studied what effective managers do and how they do it. She chairs the HBS Leadership Initiative.

Available online »

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