Could this be a universal truth?

Great bosses have a super impact on early stage careers. Until recently I hadn’t understood the full impact of a great boss over and above a first class education, blue chip organisation or dreamy job title.

Tell me it’s otherwise, but I’ve seen great bosses bring out stretch performances from the most unlikely co-workers. Equally I’ve seen talented 20somethings languish for want of a good boss.

Think back over your own career and give those great bosses some credit for where you are today. None of us did it on our own. Equally, bad bosses can be extremely damaging – not because they’re bullies, brutes or bombastic, it’s just that they don’t inspire, motivate or allow your strengths to shine. Maybe you’re reading this reflecting that great leadership in your 20s was missing and your career could have turned out otherwise?

It’s self-evident that pretty well everyone has a boss up the chain of command who can make or break a career. But a great boss can override many deficiencies in the nature of a job or organisation; they’ll stretch and develop their team, and help them accomplish extraordinary work. As a head-hunter I’ve interviewed literally thousands of people.

So what have I learned from this one-on-one market research called interviewing and a career spanning 30 years? Great leaders help other people succeed. Some candidates give text book answers about leadership, whilst those who genuinely care about their staff as individuals are the ones who stand out from the competition. They connect and motivate individuals and teams. They set high expectations and celebrate success. They encourage their people to take responsibility and will assert their authority only as necessary, knowing that oversights can be the undoing of special projects. They are respectful, humorous and stay on message.

I had four great bosses as a student and through my 20s. Lucky me. Mary Durus, Mr Hale, Chris Stewart and Sally-Anne Raher, thank you.

Did you have a great early-career boss? What impact did they have? I’d love to hear your Point of View.

Anita Ziemer

Anita is the Executive Director of Slade Group, and a member of the advisory board. In a career spanning roles working in government, not-for-profit, public company and the SME sector, Anita has a broad view of the landscape of Australians at work. Committed to making a difference in her professional and personal life, Anita is a Director of the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing & Ideas, previous Chair of Melbourne Girls Grammar School, and a Non Executive Director of online men's lifestyle publisher Boss Hunting.

Anita Ziemer
Executive Director
Slade Group
Level 10, 333 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: +61 3 9235 5100

Posted in The world @work
3 comments on “Could this be a universal truth?
  1. Ross Clennett (@rossclennett) says:

    Very well said, Anita. Any boss is in the position to be influential – it’s just whether that’s positive or negative. I was very lucky in my first post-education job in London. Kim Poole as my first boss at Accountancy Personnel (now Hays) and she encouraged me and she pushed me to a point where I am sure that any other type of boss would have given up on me and I would have left recruitment a failure after 3 months. That I recently celebrated 25 years in the recruitment industry is in no small part due to Kim’s belief in the 22 year old me, way back in 1989.

    • Anita Ziemer Anita Ziemer says:

      Ross, your comments make me wonder if we could create a ‘virtual wall of fame’ for the great bosses who impacted our early careers. We hear plenty about bad bosses. I wonder if such a thing exists?

  2. Ross Clennett (@rossclennett) says:

    Anita – I am sure a reality TV show, kind of like This Is Your Life, featuring teachers being acknowledged by past students would be a pass-the-tissues winner for some TV production house or network.

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