Be the Leader You Want Your Boss to Be

The most powerful thing you can do is create envelopes of excellence around you.

I’d just finished a leadership program with a group of caring, committed professionals. They asked great questions, made important decisions, and then it happened. A middle level manager approached me and asked a question.

It’s a common question. I hear it every time I speak—in the Q&A, in the comments afterwards, in emailed follow-ups.

This manager asked, “David, I really appreciated the program today. How can I get this information in front of my boss’s boss?”

If you’ve ever read a book, attended a seminar, or heard a speaker and desperately wished your supervisors would learn how to do what you just heard, you’re not alone.

In fact, the phenomenon is so common that I’ve given it my own name. I call it SASRNT Syndrome—So And So Really Needs This.  It’s the reaction you have when you encounter really good information and immediately want to give it to someone else. “This is awesome. My boss totally needs this!”

There’s just one problem: your boss didn’t receive the information. You did.

Don’t Fail Before You Start

I call SASRNT a syndrome because it can hurt you if you let it. When you rush off to share good leadership information with someone else, you neglect the most important step: to use it.

That other person—your boss, your colleague, your spouse—may need what you want to share, but think about how you would react if the roles were reversed.

Your employee comes to you and says, “Hey team leader, I think you’d be a much better team leader if only you’d read this book or attend that seminar.”

How would you react? Honestly?

If you’re like most people, you’d immediately be on the defensive. None of us like being told we’re not good enough. We resist whenever we feel we’re being “sold”…even if it is something that would help us.

I get it. There are tons of poor business leaders out there. The statistics are hard to argue and I see it all the time.

The manager who had asked me about sharing the information with her boss’s boss had a very tough work environment with a notorious reputation that extends beyond the walls of her company.

You may be in a similar environment. I know you want to change it – and I’m glad you do, but here’s the thing: You can’t change them. You can’t change the company. You can only change you.

Be the leader you want your boss to be. This has been my leadership mantra for many years. The only way we change the world is for you to lead well.

The one thing (and most powerful) you can do is apply what you’ve learned and create envelopes of excellence around you. When your managers treat you poorly, treat your people well. Where your managers tolerate mediocrity, act with and expect excellence. Where they act like victims, empower yourself and your team.

Have compassion for them and for your people. They may not know what you know, but they’re doing what they can. In time, they may even ask you for help.

Lead first, where you are, with what you have. Then invite others to join you on the journey.

Remember, the most effective leaders don’t try to push ideas on people. They take what they’ve learned; they use it, and then invite others to join them. How do you maintain your positive leadership when the culture doesn’t support it? Be the leader you want your boss to be.

David M. Dye is founder and president of Trailblaze Inc., a Denver-based leadership coaching, consulting and training business. His next book, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul, will be available in spring 2016. For more information visit or email