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HBR Exclusive: What your leader expects of you

The following behaviours are powerful individually, but taken together they drive performance and growth in a way that has a significant effect on long-term results.

Larry Bossidy        Print Edition: October 4, 2009

It’s well understood that the relationships between a boss and his or her direct reports are important ones and figure strongly in the success of a team.

Yet while much has been written about character traits and issues of openness and trust, the leadership literature has had strikingly little to say about what a leader should be able to expect from his people. Over the years, I’ve observed that certain behaviours, on the part of both the subordinate and the boss, are conducive to productive and rewarding relationships.

Indeed, I’ll favour someone who exhibits the behaviours I expect over someone who doesn’t, even if the latter’s numbers are slightly better, because I know the former has the potential to contribute more to the organisation over time.

In sharing the lists below — what I’ve come to think of as the CEO compact, a set of expectations both from and for a leader — I hope that I can help other leaders and teams improve their relationships and, as a consequence, their performance.

WHAT I EXPECT FROM MY DIRECT REPORTS

The following behaviours are powerful individually, but taken together they drive performance and growth in a way that has a significant effect on long-term results.

Get involved: Good executives know how to delegate. But more important, they know when a situation calls for their immediate involvement, whether it’s in redirecting resources to a product that’s suddenly taking off in the market, helping to resolve a breakdown in quality, or visiting a plant to discover why its productivity has faltered. There’s no excuse for not taking responsibility when you see a problem growing. I count on my reports to take the blame for things that go wrong and give credit for positive developments to their employees. And I expect them to have the courage to deliver bad news. If you’ve got to close a plant, go to the plant and tell those employees yourself.

While there are no hard-and-fast rules about when your involvement will have the most impact on the business (that’s a judgment call), I’ve found that good managers generally step in under three types of circumstances: when somebody is falling behind in her commitments; when important personnel matters arise, particularly if there is conflict; and in a crisis. Just because you’re an executive vice president doesn’t mean you don’t have to work anymore.

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