Good Boss, Bad Boss: How To Be The Best And Learn From The Worst. My Review

July 13, 2010

Bob Sutton is one of my favorite business/management authors. Few people offer better evidence-based advice than Bob. His new book “Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best…and Learn from the Worst,” will be available on September 7, 2010. I got my advance copy to review free of charge from the publisher. So as you consider my review of his new book, keep in mind that I have a biased opinion of Bob Sutton.

Bottom line: If you are a boss or aspire to be one someday, you need to read this book.

This is not Bob Sutton’s best book, but if you’ve never read one of his books this is the one to start with because Bob really summarizes the most important ideas and evidence that have appeared in all of his previous books, articles, and blogs. Those familiar with Bob’s work will recognize that there is not a whole lot of new stuff here, but that’s OK, because it’s still the best stuff you are going to find about how to be a good boss.

Sutton uses the term boss “rather than leader, manager, or supervisor (although all are bosses) because it implies an authority figure that has direct and frequent contact with subordinates – and who is responsible for personally directing and evaluating their work” (p. 6). All of us have bosses, and by this definition many of us will also be one if we achieve any level of competence in our chosen line of work. The boss is the person we work for.

The reason I never hesitate to recommend anything written by Bob Sutton is that he has what I consider the right philosophy and he backs it up with hard evidence. The consistent core of his philosophy, which I concur with 100%, is this:

…bosses ought to be judged by what they and their people get done and by how their followers feel along the way…The best bosses balance performance and humanity, getting things done in ways that enhance rather than destroy dignity and pride..In my opinion, bosses who drive their people to make piles of money and crank out lots of work – but crush the human spirit along the way – are bad bosses. (p. 38).

And this:

…they (good bosses) focus on controlling their moods and moves, accurately interpreting their impact on others, and making adjustments on the fly because they want their people to produce work that others will admire – and to feel respect and dignity along the way (p. 246).

Bob identifies seven things he thinks the best bosses do, cites very credible research to support his claims, and illustrates his points with great examples. Unlike many other contemporary management authors, Bob is quick to point out “…there is no single magical or simple thing that defines a great boss…anyone who promises you an easy and instant pathway to success is either ignorant or dishonest – or both.” (p. 244). Bob offers us his informed opinion about what it takes to be a good boss, but he makes no pretense about his advice being a formula or prescription for success.

I loved how frank and conversational Bob was in this book. For example, in a section entitled “Do What Is Right, Not What Everyone Else Does,” Bob states:

Mindless imitation is among the most dangerous and widespread forms of management idiocy. One of the dumbest excuses for screwing up is “everyone else does it, it is industry standard.” It reminds me of something that one of my college friends liked to say: “Eat shit. Ten billion flies can’t be wrong.”…My mother taught me to think for myself when trying to decide what to do – which was good advice when I was a teenager, because many of my friends were idiots. It is good advice for bosses, too. Don’t mindlessly compare yourself to others. What is right for them could be wrong for you. Worse yet, the people you imitate might be complete idiots. (pp. 148-149).

Don’t be an idiot. Get this book, read it, and think for yourself about what you need to do today to become a better boss yourself and to partner with your boss to help her become a better boss as well.

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  1. Bob Sutton's Good Boss, Bad Boss: A Review. Of the First Page. | September 8, 2010
  1. Hey Bret,

    We also got the privilege to read Bob’s new book: “Good Boss, Bad Boss” and completely agree! This is a great book that everyone should read if the care about being a good boss!
    We recently did a webinar with Bob about his new book and being a good boss. You can find it here
    Bob and Rypple also worked together to help people see what kind of boss they are. It includes tips and ideas for your improvement.
    Find you what famous boss you are:

    It’s so great to hear from a Bob Sutton fan – he truly is a great business author.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Alanah. I’m a big Bob fan. Sorry I missed your webinar but appreciate you sharing the link. Sorry also to admit I’ve never heard of Rypple but since social media is another one of my passions would like to learn more. Thanks for sharing! Bret