Many bosses assume that a leader needs to be aloof and tough on employees in order to be effective. They fear that looking “soft” will erode their employee’s motivation and respect for them. To prove their case, they cite examples of brilliant leaders who modeled a tough leadership style, such as Steve Jobs, who berated his employees.
When it comes to success as a leader, radically tough leadership styles are exceptions to the rule, not the rule. Recent research has shown that overly tough bosses create significant health and motivation problems in their employees, which will make you think twice about taking the tough-as-nails approach.
Overly tough bosses create stress, and lots of it, as the research shows: A University of London study found an especially strong link between heart disease and boss-inflicted stress, while a University of Concordia study found that employees who rate themselves as highly stressed added 46% to their employer’s health care costs.
Research from the Institute of Naval Medicine found that overly tough bosses cause people to seek jobs elsewhere, to perform at a lower level, to decline promotions, and even to quit. Finally, a survey from Randstad Consulting showed that most employees would trade in their bosses for better ones rather than receive a $5,000 pay raise. People don’t leave jobs; they leave bad bosses.
The thing is, nice bosses don’t just prevent health and motivational problems among their employees; they create massive benefits that hard-nosed bosses can’t. A California State Long Beach study found that leaders who treat their teams fairly have far more cohesive and productive teams and that the individuals in those teams perform better.
Research from the University of Virginia found that leaders who were considered “self-sacrificing” and “helpful” were viewed as especially inspirational and motivational and their employees were more helpful to their colleagues and more committed to their teams. So, what exactly does a “nice” boss look like, and how does one pull this off without being a push over? Let’s find out.