Leadership, defined

Recently I came across an article on Forbes.com: The 6 Most Important Things Employees Need From Their Leaders To Realize Their High Potential.

I am fortunate to have had a boss that has done all six of the things listed within it and, it is true, he helped me realize my high potential.  He often described me as a high performer and told me that I am high potential, but I didn’t always know what that meant in the scheme of things career-wise.  Did it mean that I still had some growth ahead of me?  Likely.  Did he mean those words to be insulting or condescending?  Nope, he isn’t that kind of guy.

The article mentioned above describes what it means to be high-potential, which was the first time I have seen it described, and I think I fit that description. So I learned a little about myself and what my boss thought/thinks of me.

But this isn’t about me.  Today I want to share with you how my boss hit the marks on each of the six things described in that article.  I realize that many people have not had the opportunity to work for such a boss, but I hope that my examples will help people see that there are bosses out there who do these things!  It is unfortunate that bosses like this are hard to find, but alas…

1. Feel Valued and Respected

My boss always allowed for transparency, and actually encouraged it.  He appreciated hearing my opinions and when I wasn’t providing them he was soliciting them frequently.  It was a two-way street, too!  If I asked his opinion he would not couch it and he would not hold back.  That is not to say that he would be unfiltered.  He was, after all, my boss.  But I could count on him to be real.  It was refreshing.

2. Sponsor Advancement

This was perhaps the best thing he did for me.  He tried his damnedest to open new doors for me, often requiring several meetings with upper management or his peers to do so.  He nominated me for recognition awards and fought for advancement, promotions, raises, bonuses, and even respect…for ME.  And he never made me feel as though I had to earn his sponsorship; he was happy to do it and he told me many times that I deserved the things that he was fighting for on my behalf.  He told me that I was performing at a higher level and that I deserved such recognition.  He took risks for me in order to help advance my career.  Wow.

3. Genuinely Invest in Growth & Development

My boss encouraged me to attend industry-related meetings and events and he encouraged my participation in them and other industry-related events.  He encouraged my professional development, and forwarded info to me about upcoming events and webinars that he thought I should attend.  He encouraged me to get myself out there, network, facilitate sessions at events on topics of interest, etc.  He knew that I was dreaming of PMP certification, so he sent info to me on prep courses and encouraged me to go for the certification (still working on it).  He met with me weekly to gauge progress on my projects…and HE TOOK NOTES on what I was saying.  He could have very easily required me to send him a written report, but he had an interest in my growth and development and talking to your boss about your projects and their scope and progress is sometimes humbling.  He also had an open-door policy which did not limit our interactions to our weekly checkpoints.

4. Exposure to People of Influence

He gave me a seat at the table.  On many occasions.  He had enough confidence and trust in me to bring me to meetings with people three levels above me in the hierarchy.  He even encouraged me to arrange face time with the higher-ups on my own, whether it was having lunch with them or sitting with them at company events.

5. Don’t Be Threatened

He was/is confident in himself and I never felt as though he was only looking out for himself and his own gain within the company.  He groomed me and mentored me to make me better at what I do.  He is a servant leader.

6. Encourage Risk Taking and Exploration

It is not uncommon for me to come up with wild ideas, strategies, or new and/or risky ways of approaching things, and he mostly allowed me to explore those.  I could do some R&D and provide him a business case…for anything really.  And if it was good enough he would toss it up the chain for consideration…where it would usually die due to circumstances beyond his control.  (That’s a topic for another day.)  I got pretty good at researching and summarizing my ideas, justifying them, and putting them into executive summaries which only – once again – helps me in the long-term.

If ever you have any opportunity to have a boss who supports you in any of these ways – even if just a little – do not take it for granted.  Unfortunately, bosses like my old boss are outnumbered by those who are only out for personal gain and contradict all six of the items listed in that article.  So be sure to thank your boss each time he or she allows you to take that risk, sit in that high-profile meeting, and fights for your advancement if empowered and motivated to do so.  My boss allowed me to be autonomous, and he empowered me in many ways that helped me realize me high potential.  And I am forever grateful and indebted.  I hope to someday be the kind of leader that he is.


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