One of the lessons I learned in Air Force leadership school was “never let those who serve under you doubt the direction you are going especially when you’re not sure which direction to go.
In 2002, Andy Grove, Intel’s legendary CEO (1987–98), was interviewed by Harvard University’s Clay Christensen, who asked Andy how leaders can act and feel confident despite their doubts. He answered, “Investment decisions or personnel decisions and prioritization don’t wait for that picture to be clarified. You have to make them when you have to make them.” That’s why executives need to use what I call the faking- it-until-you-make-it strategy, which he also touched on: “Part of it is self-discipline, and part of it is deception. And the deception becomes reality. It is deception in the sense that you pump yourself up and put a better face on things than you start off feeling. But after a while, if you act confident, you become more confident.
When you “take command” in a new leadership position you have to wise enough to know when to listen and when to talk. This means that occasionally you’re probably going to bite your tongue and want to interrupt people but good leaders know that interrupting too much can lead to a perceived abuse of power.
Good leaders listen and probe and the right time and when they make a decision they have to be able to say the direction we went was the right way to go even if they had doubts.
Studies show that for more than 75 percent of employees say dealing with their immediate boss is the most stressful part of the job. Lousy bosses can kill you—literally. A 2009 Swedish study tracking 3,122 men for ten years found that those with bad bosses suffered 20 to 40 percent more heart attacks than those with good bosses.
The effectiveness of a good boss can be the answered with a simple question. “Are people following you because you have a title and they are afraid or are they following you because they believe in where you are going ?”