Good leaders reject the word ‘boss,’ a 30-year Cal Poly department head says

Harvey R. Levenson
Harvey R. Levenson

Editor’s note: Who among us, especially young entrepreneurs and small-business owners, doesn’t want to learn from others?

With that in mind, we asked our readers for the best business advice they’ve ever received.

We continue this occasional column with comments from a local resident on great advice he received early in his career.

I headed Graphic Communication at Cal Poly for 30 years straight, the longest tenure for an ongoing head or chair in the university’s history. Typically, these positions are three-year terms. I always felt supported by the faculty and staff.

I attribute this to practicing “inverted-pyramid management,” meaning rejecting the word “boss” and reporting to the faculty and staff, not them to me. An effective manager helps employees be the best that they can, provide support, resources and professional development.

A former director taught me: “When things go right, compliment the employee. When things go wrong, blame the system.” I practiced this.

Harvey R. Levenson, Ph. D., Professor Emeritus, Graphic Communication Dept., Cal Poly


What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? And how has it helped make you more successful in your business/professional life? Tell us in 100 words or fewer, and send it to We will publish them in future Biz Buzz columns.