Why You Need a Tough Boss to Succeed at Work and Life

Tough Bosses

You’re going to hate this post but there’s a tough boss everywhere. We’ve seen them in the movies. We hear about them from our friends and we’ve been warned by our family to stay clear from them. They live, work and prosper amongst us. They’re not hard to miss and if you pay really close attention, you’ll know why they are worth imitating. 

I’ve read a bunch of really insightful leadership books and attended a number of those ‘become a better manager’ workshops. I’ve spent most of the last decade studying some of the world’s most influential bosses, each of them becoming extraordinary leaders who amassed fortunes, transformed businesses, and mentored hordes of ultra successful protégés.

Experience Counts

Experience has taught me how to put together a list of different types of bosses a person can become. I’ve worked with a few of them as well. There’s the micromanager, the abuser, the dictator and the complete utter idiot. I’ve also met bosses that can’t delegate and some that have egos that find it hard to trust their team and let go. These are all probably categorical examples of bad bosses. I have a different thought process. I believe that a boss that cannot get enough strength to lead his team into daily battles is not a leader at all. That’s what we call a coward boss. Amongst all the leadership books I’ve read, I have yet to discover one that describes the kind of boss I am.

Tough Boss

Your Team Should Know You’re Tough

I am a difficult boss. I know it. My team knows it. Other managers in other teams know it too. At the outset, my management style is confusing. To those that are used to dealing with the predefined types of bosses, I am an enigma. To anyone outside, I appear to fall in the bad boss category. But I believe that if you spend five minutes on a team like mine, it will become increasingly clear that I am not mean, not controlling, nor an idiot. I am simply difficult. 

Most people believe that ‘difficult’ is a word that has many connotations. Because of preconceived views, too many people often associate difficult bosses with being a bad boss. Let me clarify this misconception. A difficult boss does not abuse or speak obscenities at his team for personal joys. He is not obstreperous. He knows what is the right approach to delegate and knows how to trust the right people in his team. 

Being a Tough Boss isn’t a Bad Thing

I believe that a difficult boss is not a bad boss at all. In fact, a difficult boss is the kind of manager that anyone would love to have and eventually grow into their position. A manager that is difficult pushes you to become the best version of yourself at work. It’s a style of leadership that works well.

I need you to understand that a difficult boss is not a bad boss. Neither is he a mean boss. I do not believe in showering praises on my team for mediocre work. Many people, including HR, say this is a terrible thing to do. But in my view, it’s not harsh. It’s simply pragmatic. Understand that a good boss values their employees most of all. They will say ‘please’ and ’thank-you’ and recognize efforts that they need for their team to succeed.

As a difficult boss, I do these things too. I thank my barista for getting me my coffee and helping me get through the day. He’s a part of my team too. Why would I not appreciate my team? I do use social and subtle clues. But I am not about to go ahead and tell my team that they have done a fantastic job when they haven’t. Handing out praises for no pertinent reason benefits no-one. The team I work with has to earn sincere and enthusiastic appraisals. 

Tough Bosses are Awesome

If you ask anyone on my team if they think I am mean, they will tell you no, but they will also have a story to share. I’m not that kind of boss that will excuse you from a meeting only if you are dead. I try to clear out my working stye and be as transparent as I can with the team as early as possible in their tenure with me. They understand what I am, and how they need to grow. In fact, they will tell you that I appraise them for projects I value a lot. It’s logical that we feel better knowing that your boss tells you that you’ve done a fantastic job when you’ve actually done a great job.

A Tough Boss Works With On Their Team

I am a difficult boss and as a difficult boss, I am hard to please. However, just because you think I feel like this, it does not mean I am impossible to please. The primary reason why I demand so much from my team is that I want more for them to grow and eventually take better positions. Personally, I take great pride in being honored with the opportunity to progress and develop alongside them, professionally as well we personally. My approach is simple. If you push me up, I will take out my hand, pull you, and take you up with me. That’s how great teams are made.

I am in no way a navy general or sergeant. I do not need to berate my team and force them to transcend their boundaries. However, the principles of my work ethic remain the same. In life, you do not get what you ask for. It’s how we eclipse ourselves in adversity that matters the most. I do not want my team to grow for my personal gain. That would make me a bad boss. Although, I do stand to benefit if my team excels, wanting more from my team is primarily about needing them to emerge better and stronger in everything we do together.

I believe in the team I have today and I know that they are good, honourable people. I take great pride in knowing that their individual simplicity is what makes us great together. There are times when we will be filled with fear and anxiety. But there will be moments when we celebrate our achievements with pride, banter and trivial immaturity. 

Have High Expectations

When I see a team working in perfection to reach their potential, I am inspired to push myself along with them. Toughness is not incompatible with being a tough boss. I am a tough boss because I have high standards. I have high expectations for myself and I have high expectations from the people I work on. This is because I have high expectations of the work we do. 

Toughness is never perceived or rewarded equally. Being a tough boss means often having to strongly say no and that is a trait which is never judged fairly. I am a difficult boss. Anyone will tell you that. But, I am not a bad boss. If I was a bad boss, you would not be able to question it. 

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