The “Unboss” Leader

Posted by jlubans on April 15, 2014

20140415-unboss sm.jpeg

While preparing for the “Freedom at Work” Webinar on April 23, I’ve been seriously PowerPointing for the first time in my career. I am not a PP fan but that’s what the Webinar runs on, so I have had to crash-learn PP.
But, more importantly, I’ve had to create some new definitions. Teaching, as someone said, is the best way to learn.
One of the words I apply to the democratic Leader is “unboss”. Well, what do I mean by that? It’s a term I first used in my 2006 essay on the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. In 2012, a Danish book, “Unboss” was published by two Danish authors with much social media fanfare.
I have yet to see a copy - so do not know if they got the term from me or it is just a matter of great minds thinking alike? Hah!
The chart (scroll down to the bottom of this post) comes from the chapter in Leading from the Middle about the insecure boss I’ve known. What I had to say then applies in many ways to the unboss.
The insecure boss is of course not the unboss. Just the opposite. Nor is the unboss a glass chewing, nail spitting, ass-kicker. That’s not to say the unboss is a milquetoast, afraid to discipline. No, it really is about confidence in one’s judgment and style and in understanding one’s role in developing people and systems.
I’ve developed this short unboss definition as a webinar slide.

Un-boss: Characteristics & Qualities

Represents the organization
Collaborates in decisions and actions
Works alongside
Waits for others to initiate
Tolerates mistakes
Defends staff
Shares praise; accepts blame
Appreciates urgency and takes the long view
Listens and hears; questions and offers well-considered advice.
Takes the job seriously; self, less so.

And, most mysteriously and paradoxically, is someone, about whom the people exclaim, when the task is done, “We did it ourselves!”

Not too long, I think it captures how an unboss leads his or her organization, including the notion of staff managing self.
Now, can a dyed-in-the-wool Theory X type (“My way or else!”) be an unboss? Very unlikely, because some of our style is who we are; how far have we evolved – and, by that I do mean evolution. If we behave like life is a Darwinian pecking order, then the unboss position is untenable.
Someone with a Theory Y orientation (participatory) should have an easier time of it since many of the unboss “traits” come with the Theory Y personality. Her worldview includes sharing with, kindness toward and respect for others.

Order your library a copy of Leading from the Middle right here.

LfM is cited in the 2012 book, “LIS Career Sourcebook: Managing and Maximizing Every Step of Your Career” by G. Kim Dority:
“For a delightful and insightful book on (followership) see Leading from the Middle by John Lubans.” P. 166. Also, listed with annotation on p. 177.

20140415-Unboss toxicsm jpeg.jpeg
Caption: Lubans's "toxic boss" benign bumbler etc., taxonomy.

@Copyright John Lubans 2014
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Posted by Isabelle on April 16, 2014  •  06:40:28

Hello John,

I have posted for you on your mail, did you receved it ?
Best wishes.
Isabelle Lubans

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