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What Barbara Corcoran learned from her worst bosses

Natalie Mayrath
Producer/Reporter

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Of the 21 jobs Barbara Corcoran had by the age of 22, it’s the bad bosses who taught her the most. “I think you learn the most from the hardships and the bad things, not the great things,” says Corcoran, a judge on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and host of the Business Unusual podcast.

Of course, being a good leader can be tough, and balancing relationship dynamics is an element of any career. Corcoran points to a power tool in business that none of her bad bosses used: “give recognition when a job is well done. I've learned it's more important than paying money,” she says, “and that's a commodity today that many of the larger businesses don't bother to use or tap into.”

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Working for so many bosses made it clear to Corcoran that she wanted to be the boss herself. And once she reached boss status, she hired all women to run her first company. “None of the men wanted to work for me,” she explains. “I built my whole real estate business with females and we had twice as much power because of it.” Corcoran attributes this power to the ability of females to form strong cohesive teams. “Females tend to be more democratic, they like the team on their side,” she says. “You get a nucleus of people that collectively they're very strong.”

Corcoran says a man’s approach can also have advantages. “As a man I think the style tends to be more like take command and that has its power, too, because it gives a very clear directive and you get moving faster.”

Whether male or female, all bosses should build on the strengths of the employees who work for them, Corcoran says. “The most important thing ... I didn't learn from any of my bad bosses is to really build on the strengths of the individuals that are working for you because you get a much happier, more successful team,” she says.

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