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Springfield, MO

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Leading the boss makes business sense

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Let's wake up and smell the workplace politics. Your boss has something you do not have the right signature for the bottom of your paycheck. That is the in-your-face reality of our work lives.

We can moan, groan, bemoan and phone a boss' name to a 24-hour prayer tower, but the boss is still the boss, and you are still the employee.

The two of you can hold hands and get weepy over "empowerment," "quality circles," "open-book management" and then hum a few bars of "It's A Small World," but it doesn't change the essential political relationship between the bosser and the bossee.

From the moment Adam found out he would have to perspire to prosper, there has always been someone at work to tell other people at work what to do.

This could be a civilized form of cynical paternalism unless we change some terms. I am suggesting that "boss" be replaced with "leader," and watch the difference.

If you hate your boss and stage a coup d'?tat, then you become the new boss, and someone will hate you and say nasty things about you at coffee break. In order for chaos to be kept at bay in any human organization, someone does have to accept responsibility to get out front and direct those who follow.

Yes, there are some bosses who do suffer with a Messianic Complex. Yes, there are some people in leadership who believe their job is a continuous therapy session where they work out their pathology for control and power. But, no, not all bosses are despots some are leaders.

If your boss is just a boss, then what I am about to suggest doesn't have a prayer. But if your boss is a leader, then you can lead your boss with these ideas.

First, if you want to lead your boss, make yourself indispensable. How good are you? If you substitute whining for working, your boss will ride your case. If, on the other hand, you are very good at your job, your leader-boss will treat you as an equal.

I am convinced the most strident voices about "boss-oppression" are usually the poorest performers. Blaming makes a great excuse for mediocrity. If you want to make sure no one expects excellence from you, just develop a reputation of the victim. Victims, you see, can never be expected to be great.

Second, if you want to lead your boss, communicate quickly. Even though I haven't met your boss, I can tell you what this person does not have: time. Leaders love followers who write quick e-mails, refer to note cards when they make an appointment and keep business telephone conversations to a minimum.

Third, if you want to lead your boss, reduce overhead expenses. This is so simple, it is profound. Your boss is probably responsible for holding to a budget. When you come along offering ideas and strategies for running your organization below budget, your influence goes into warp speed. Call your chiropractor now for an adjustment because you are going to get one gigantic pat on the back.

Does extra money in your pocket make you smile? Think of the cranial cartwheels your boss will do when you help him or her with the cash issue.

Fourth, if you want to lead your boss, create new ideas and then give permission to let your boss put his or her name on them. You are, undoubtedly saying, "No way!" Think about it.

The reason you want your name on those wonder thoughts is to get something in return. If your boss is a leader, he or she will remember the gift of great ideas. It may be months or years later, but this investment in creativity will return to you.

Finally, if you want to lead your boss, become part of the solution. Bosses really believe they work for the Springfield Fire Department.

They arrive in the morning to find a series of bureaucratic fires that they must hose down quickly. Think about the supreme relief there must be for a leader to have you arrive with another emergency only to discover you have already watered down the blaze of blunder into a whiff of whatever.

Here's the bottom line. If you try to out-boss your boss, you're toast. If you work at leading your boss, you're a business partner.

(Dr. Cal LeMon solves organizational problems with customized training and consulting. His company, The Executive Edge, can be contacted at his Web site,

www.executive-edge.com

by phone at 889-4040 or e-mail at callemon@aol.)

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