During my early career I had a string of some unusually bad bosses who had very little respect from their subordinates. In my first job as an engineer at a giant aerospace company, I worked under one of these. I had done quite a bit of research about a problem we were having with one of our products and wrote up a very detailed report on what I had found and a proposed solution. When my boss read it, he informed me that the report would be issued under his name. It was an important subject that was going to be circulated high in the organization. When I protested this revision, I was told that this is the way business works and that I had a lot to learn. That started my quest for a new job.
You must allow your subordinates their opportunity to make a name for themselves. When you hire people that are smarter than you are, you prove perhaps that you may be smarter after all. You can consider yourself a good leader when you demand good work from your people.
Unfortunately, in my next job I ran into a boss who was intimidated by my work. I did a major research project for a new product line that he had directed me to undertake. When I submitted my proposal for review, the math I included with my analysis was apparently way beyond his comprehension. After one evening of review, he gave it back to me with one note (in red ink no less) that stated the design would never work! No explanation was offered and no discussion followed. Time for a new job search.
Again, let your people have the opportunity to try their ideas. Working with the opportunity or threat of failure is a great tempering process for one’s development. Of course, you don’t want or expect failure, so you need to guide them through the process using your own experiences as a guidepost not as a directive.
However, once again I ran into a take-all-the-credit type of boss. There are a lot of you guys out there. This time it was over patents. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to submit an idea for a patent, you know that all patents are listed under the principal inventor’s name. If there are more inventors, they become “et all” in any listings. When we submitted my designs for patents, my boss informed me that since he was the senior officer in the department, his name would be listed first, even though he had nothing whatsoever to do with the invention. That seemed strange, but I had no knowledge about patents until I was discussing some of the details with our attorney. That’s when I learned that the principal inventor’s name must, by law, be the first name. That was the beginning of the end of my relationship with that boss. He later was fired, however, and I became the new VP. Sometimes there is justice.
More on Leadership in this Time of Crisis
By Jack Marino