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5 Things Every New Boss Should Know (Men’s Health)

Now that you’re the big man in charge, learn these leadership lessons
By Rachael Schultz, November 26, 2013

Brand-new boss? Don’t let the sudden clout go to your head:

Newly powerful people are more likely to punish others, finds new research from Australia. When those who have never possessed power before suddenly have it, two things are at play, explains study author Peter Strelan, Ph.D.: They often think—sometimes mistakenly—that powerful people abuse their authority because they can, so the newbie leaders now have the opportunity to use the same trump card. But there’s also a paranoia left over from being the low man on the totem pole that can make new bosses more defensive against a perceived threat, adds Strelan.

In charge of people for the first time in your career? Starting off on the right foot could mean the difference between earning your team’s respect and being shown the door. Here are five things every new boss should know:

Don’t play favorites.
Being friendly and being authoritative aren’t mutually exclusive—as long as you’re consistently cordial with everyone. “Playing favorites or providing exceptions to certain people—especially friends from your old role—is a big mistake and will destroy trust within your team,” says Steve McClatchy, president of Alleer Training & Consulting in Pennsylvania. If your friends are looking for perks, be straight with them: Tell them bending the rules would threaten your new position. Friends should want the best for you—and that includes success in your role, says McClatchy.

You can always learn from your employees.
“It’s likely that some—if not most—of the people who report to you have been in their roles prior to your arrival or promotion,” says Ken Tucker, coauthor of The Leadership Triangle. “Presenting yourself as the expert on a topic is discounting their years on the job and the experiences that come with that, and will earn you disdain and ridicule.” Position yourself as a co-learner to foster collaboration and still retain your authority. Admit that you both have a lot to learn from one another: You seek their knowledge on the tasks, and you can teach them how to achieve their desired outcomes.

Deliver instructions, not questions.
When you switch roles, people need to perceive you as the man in charge—but some will still view you as a peer, says Jeremy Lazarus, founder of The Lazarus Consultancy in London. If a command sounds like a question, people may think you’re unconfident in your role. The good news is there’s a 2-second fix: Lowering your tone at the end of a sentence gives an air of authority and instruction, so no one can mistake the request as optional, Lazarus says.

Discover people’s strengths.
You’re no longer responsible for just completing your own tasks, but managing others’ success as well, says Lazarus. “People learn and are motivated in different ways,” he says. “Taking the time to figure out who is motivated by challenges, or by variety, or by personal development will lead to a far more successful team.” Sit down with each person individually and ask what drives them, Lazarus suggests. Then incorporate these incentives into rewards for their work goals.

Be available, but not overbearing.
“New managers often think that their first responsibility is to micro-manage others, but this turns managing into mothering,” says Tucker. “Effective managing today is not about ensuring everyone is on task, but instead about unleashing people to do and own their best work.” In fact, when Google began to analyze their internal performance and feedback data to create better bosses a few years ago, the company found that workers most valued bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, helped employees work through problems by asking questions instead of giving the answers, and were otherwise hands-off until an issue arose.

* This article has been slightly modified from its original publication.

Steve McClatchy is the author of the award-winning New York Times Bestseller DecideWork Smarter, Reduce Your Stress & Lead by Example. If you would like to learn more about having Steve deliver a virtual or in-person presentation or workshop for your organization, team, or association, email


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