Stuff I’ve Learned: You Can’t Change the Boss

I work for myself now. It wasn’t always that way. And part of the reason I ventured out on my own is because of this simple lesson, learned over and over again:

You can’t change the boss.

Whoever is in charge, whoever pays the bills, sets the course and the culture. You can do your best to be a good influence, you can speak what you believe to be true and wise, but ultimately, your ideas are subordinate.

And that’s kind of painful, when you see (as I have) the ship starting to founder. When you experience an unhealthy culture that you cannot “fix.” When you start to wonder if you even fit – am I crazy, or is it just them? ;>}

I tried throughout decades of working within groups led by others – I really did. I’m neither overly confrontational nor arrogantly brash (I think….maybe…), but I also wasn’t one to simply follow the status quo. If you think you see a better way, you try to influence the direction of the company or organization, right?

I provided a level of leadership in both business and volunteer organizations; yet ultimately, there was a cap to my ability to influence. When someone else holds the reins, and writes the paychecks, they call the shots. Even the bad shots.

I found that this truth was both frustrating and, at the same time, curiously liberating. It gave me permission to “give up” on trying to change someone else, and begin to set my own course. If you have a certain degree of idealism and entrepreneurial drive, you’re going to find this to be a constant tension.

Some people will do their best work in other people’s organizations, and that’s not a bad thing at all. But some of us need to break new ground, and that’s good too.┬áJust be realistic as you go through your career transitions. You can’t change the boss.

Or can you? What do you think?

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