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Here's how to enjoy the perks of leadership without the work.

3 minute read

Today is National Boss’s Day, a holiday to give thanks to the people who haven’t fired us yet. Some people bring in cookies, cards, or gifts, but the best gift you can give the both of you — whether you ever want to be the boss or not — is to learn how he or she thinks.

It doesn’t matter if you have a good boss or a bad boss. You’ll benefit either way, whether it means working a step ahead or several steps around him. (You may not want to help a bad boss out, but you do want to help yourself.)

Thinking like a boss doesn’t mean being manipulative or fake, either — it’s called “managing up,” not sucking up. There are plenty of books about it, but here are some basic tips to get you started…

  1. Learn their motivations. If you know what bosses worry about and what their goals are, you start seeing why they act the way they do and what you can do to help. If your boss isn’t that open, start by paying attention to how he spends his day and what he complains about.
  2. Speak their language. If you understand their jargon and their motivations, you know how to frame conversations and “get” what they want without as much hassle. That’s an invaluable time saver for both of you.
  3. Adapt to their communication style. Some bosses are organized, while others need you to follow up on tasks. Some send a lot of email and respond quickest there, while others prefer processing new information face-to-face. Some bosses want to hear the details, and some just want a big-picture summary focused on results.  Things get done quicker when you operate the same way as your boss.
  4. Keep them in the loop. Bosses don’t like surprises. If you anticipate problems or delays on a project, let them know. Even if nothing’s wrong, a status update can be helpful — so your boss can provide a progress report to his boss.

Make your boss look awesome, and you’ll look awesome. That, or you’ll have the skills to find a boss who deserves you.

National Boss’s Day isn’t just a day to give gifts, it also gives pollsters the chance to ask boss-related questions. Here are our favorites this year…

1. Bosses face fewer crises than they did a decade ago

Half of chief financial officers in a new survey by staffing firm Accountemps — which asked more than 2,100 of them — said they “contend with at least one unexpected crisis a week.”

Eight percent said a few times a day, and 2 percent said they didn’t know, presumably because they were mid-crisis while on the phone for the survey.

Despite a seemingly endless string of data breaches and social media snafus, that number is down sharply from a decade ago. Back then, it was 80 percent of CFOs who had a weekly crisis on their hands.

2. Chief financial officer is the least popular executive job

Staffing firm Korn Ferry asked more than 1,000 executives, and only a third want to be CFO.

Meanwhile, 87 percent want to be CEO. Alas, Korn Ferry says, most will never be smart enough for the big chair.

“Based on leadership assessments of more than 2.5 million leaders over the past four decades, only 15 percent of executives are highly learning agile – a key predictor of success and critical attribute of effective, breakthrough leaders,” it says.

In other words, most executives aren’t resourceful and flexible enough to get the job done right.

3. Most employees respect their bosses

A survey of 400 office workers from yet another staffing firm, OfficeTeam, shows 76 percent believe their bosses have strong leadership skills — and only 22 percent of them believe they could do a better job of running the show.

OfficeTeam has some questions for those ladder climbers to ask themselves: Can you make difficult decisions, inspire others, listen well, take blame, and delegate? If not, you might not be ready for management.

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About the Author

Brandon Ballenger

Brandon Ballenger

Ballenger is a writer for and its first political columnist.

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