How do you be a boss without being bossy?

PS: This article uses psychometric personality models to identify boss strengths and weaknesses. If you haven’t found out your Boss Superpower yet you can do that here.

Being a boss by not relying on confidence and assertiveness

Don’t you just hate those bosses that just seem so sure of themselves. Whether they are right or wrong they always seem to have a good story. They don’t hesitate to tell people exactly what they think. They stand their ground no matter what. Their confidence seems boundless even though it’s groundless. It seems that they get promotions not because of talent but because they make the most noise. You’re a hard worker, you pay attention to the details and you don’t bullshit people. It’s not fair that the loud bullshit artists get promotion after promotion. Have faith because less assertive, thinking and feeling bosses actually have the power to be better bosses. But it’s a skill that needs a little teasing out in people like you and me. This article will tell you how.

Dominant personalities get confused for leaders

We know that lots of employees hate their bosses. This is simply because dominant personality traits get confused for leadership skills. Dominant personalities have traits that help them with leadership. They are assertive, they move at a fast pace, they don’t get bogged down in details and they speak their mind. These are great traits to get things done quickly but it comes with a people cost. In our flawed culture being a boss is challenging if you aren’t domineering.

Each Personality Type has Strengths and Weaknesses Jpeg

Your strengths are your weaknesses, your weaknesses are your strengths

In the DISC personality model there aren’t good or bad personality styles. The personality model has characteristics and each of these characteristics has a strength and a mirror weakness. Personality models split people into assertive and submissive. They are on opposite sides. And this is how these mirror types perform as bosses:

The weakness of assertive types:

The dominant personalities are good at getting results but they do it in a way that burns through people. Ultimately this is unsustainable. Employees leave, they hate their bosses. The mark of a truly good boss is a boss who can produce results in a way that retains people. So dominant bosses only have half of the puzzle. Overconfident bosses make spectacular failures so there is some justice in this world.

The weakness of submissive types:

The less assertive people are more supportive. These are the people that like to be sure before making a decision. They are the thinkers that analyse things. They are the supporters that like to make sure everyone is safe and in harmony. Now these people are great at fairness and support but the problem is they avoid conflict and aren’t assertive. This means they get walked over by employees and end up having to work hard to produce results.

Supportive yet demanding - the mark of a true Super Boss

So as you see assertive and submissive personality types both have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to being a boss. The mark of a truly good boss is the ability to be both supportive and demanding. Truly great bosses demand high performance from their employees but they also support their employees to achieve these results. The reason why great bosses are so uncommon is because these are opposite characteristics in personality models. This means people tend to go one way or the other. Doing both at once is the management equivalent of being ambidextrous.

Awareness starts your journey to being a better boss

What I’ve learnt in my journey is that less assertive personalities have the capability to as good, if not better than domineering bosses. But they have to do three things:

  1. Recognize where their natural tendencies are holding them back,

  2. Play to their strengths and,

  3. Compensate for fatal flaws.

Medicine for the five fatal flaws

By working with bosses I’ve realized that there are 5 fatal flaws for non-domineering bosses. They are: staying in your shell, avoiding difficult performance discussions, not setting clear expectations, solving employees problems for them and taking on too much work themselves. This is what you can do about them:

Medicine for the 5 Fatal Management Flaws of Non-Domineering Bosses Jpeg
  1. Regular One-on-ones: To get out of your shell, even if slightly uncomfortable,

  2. Performance communications: Telling employees what they need to change,

  3. Setting clear performance expectations: Establishing barriers and deliverables upfront,

  4. Training employees to solve their own problems: Avoiding solving employee problems for them, and,

  5. Delegating work: Letting go and asking others for help.

Let’s talk about One-on-ones

There are reference links for each of these. But the easiest place to start is by holding regular one-on-one meetings with your employees. Because I know that less assertive bosses like to make sure everything is right, I’ve got a one-on-one form for you to download. Working off a best practice document will help you make sure that you don’t leave anything out or get anything wrong. 


I got promoted to management at a young age because I was good at my job. But that meant my staff were all older than me. I never got any training how to be a boss and I can’t say I had any good role models either. I got on with my job and I wished that my employees would get on with theirs. I only had “boss” conversations when I absolutely had to in the annual performance reviews.

I was worried about giving negative feedback. I wanted to avoid confrontation and I didn’t want my employees to dislike me. I was afraid of my employees questioning my competence. Employee meetings became emotionally loaded. These were some of the reasons I avoided regular one-on-ones with my employees.

I really didn’t know what I was doing managing staff. I didn’t even know how to have a simple one-on-one meeting with my employees because my boss had never had one with me. And no-one trained me how to do it.

That's why I've also created a free mini-course (including a free one-on-one template with a free one-on-one meeting agenda) to show you how to have effective one-on-one meetings with your staff.


Free One-on-Ones Mini-Course Plus One-on-Ones Template

Avoidance doesn’t solve problems

But avoidance doesn’t solve any problems. Worrying that your employees won’t like you leads to your employees losing respect for you. And that’s even worse. It sounds too simple to work but just holding a weekly one-on-one with your employees is one of the best things to do. It forces you out of your shell, it builds relationships so that they understand you and you understand them. It means you talk regularly about deliverables and performance.

How supportive types can make great bosses - case study

Recently I was talking to a “reluctant” boss about his management journey. Let's just call him Dave. Dave didn’t want to be a boss but his own manager thought he’d make a great boss. Dave isn’t assertive, he’s the opposite because he prefers not to shout, or make unnecessary change. He’s what you’d call a High S on the DISC scale - very supportive of his employees. His management trick is that he carefully listens to the personal goals of his employees and then helps them achieve these goals.

You see management doesn’t have to be a zero sum game where the company can only succeed at the expense of the employees. Assertive bosses make the mistake of an us vs. you confrontation. But truly great bosses know how to manage by using intrinsic motivators so that the employee, company and boss work towards mutual goals. When you do this, you’re in what I call the Management Sweetspot.


I really struggled in my first management positions. It seemed like my staff didn’t listen to what I said. And I was good at my job but interactions with employees left me feeling uncertain and lacking. As a result I didn’t do what a boss should do with their employees. One of which was hold regular one-on-one meetings. And if you want to have good one-on-one meetings it’s best to start with a good one-on-one template which you can get here. Being a great boss doesn't mean you have to change from "nice-guy" to jerk. It's about knowing yourself and working with your strengths and weaknesses. Be yourself, only better.

PS: What does your personality type say about your management style? Take this fun, but scientifically validated personality model to find out your Boss Strengths and Weaknesses.

Boss Camp

I bet your staff would rather be at the beach than working hard. But you’re the poor boss who’s responsible for their work. Managing is hard. Find out how to make managing easy at WWW.BOSS.CAMP. The program includes topics such as:

·       How to hire for performance,

·       How to motivate employees,

·       What are bad employee motivators,

·       What you must do as a manager but isn't on your job description,

·       How leaders get power.