Confessions of a Recovering A-Hole: How A CEO Changed His Leadership Style
Krister Ungerboeck was not popular a boss.
The former CEO-turned-CEO coach of Courageous Growth, says that he realized he was not the leader he wanted to be when his employees didn’t rate him as high as he expected on an executive survey and that his staff found him overly-critical and difficult to please.
“It doesn’t surprise me that so many employees dislike their employers, or that so many bosses struggle to be effective and engaged leaders. In fact, I used to be one of those bosses. When I finally realized that my leadership style left my employees struggling to feel inspired, I made a major transformation. I like to think of myself as a ‘recovering a-hole’ boss, and now I help other leaders to undergo the same metamorphosis.”
Here, the business trends expert outlines his top tips for bosses who fear that they aren’t performing up to their true potential:
- Stop trying to be the smartest person in the room. “We assume that the CEO should be the smartest person in the room,” says Ungerboeck. “But once I dropped that goal, I was able to step back and let my team’s true talents shine. I stopped thinking I had to do everything myself if I wanted it done right. I had more faith in my team and, ultimately, myself. After all, I am the one who hired them, so I had to trust my instinct that they could perform well.”
- Don’t assume your employees think like you. “One of the biggest mistakes that employers make is they assume that their employees approach life with the same mindset as they do,” says Ungerboeck. “This just isn’t true. It might not be a big deal to you to get a short, dismissive email from a higher-up, or to never get any praise, but the opposite might be true for your staff. Your differing levels of power mean that their need for positive feedback is much different than yours. Think of it this way: Your position of power affords you organic praise every day. You feel important and necessary every time you walk into the office, whereas a junior employee likely doesn’t. Hence, for them, a small word of praise is positively vital. So don’t assume that a ‘good job’ isn’t important just because you personally never need to hear it.”
- Don’t tell people what to do. “Instead of giving people the answer you want, ask open-ended questions and let them find their own way,” says Ungerboeck. “This is the only way you can help your employees develop and grow. If you hold their hands every step of the way, they will never develop the skills you desire. A good leader should be like a North Star guiding his staff towards the solutions, rather than the captain grabbing the wheel.”
- Don’t neglect your personal relationships. “When your marriage is on the rocks or you’re dealing with family drama at home, it is going to take a toll on your mood and your health,” says Ungerboeck. “You might worry that you are taking time away from the office if you spend time focusing on your marriage or your kids, but your company will suffer if your personal life hits the rocks. As the saying goes, ‘you can’t pour from an empty vessel.’ You need to make sure that you are practicing self-care outside the office and tending to your personal relationships if you want to shine professionally.”
- Remember, your staff has to WANT to follow you. “At the end of the day, the most important quality in a leader is whether his employees want to follow him, or whether they are just showing up and pulling a paycheck. When you have staff that are inspired, engaged and go home every day feeling proud of themselves, you are winning. Make it your goal that your employees go home feeling like they have learned something new, feeling like they have grown as people and as professionals, and that their work for your company is valued and recognized.”
As a successful former CEO of a company that grew 3,000%, Ungerboeck founded Courageous Growth to assist CEOs with business and personal growth. He works exclusively with owners, CEOs, future CEOs or 2ICs (2nd in Command) to accelerate their business and personal growth.