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What Makes a Boss Great?

By David Tessmann-Keys

female boss working with a team memberBosses get a bad rap. And there are plenty of reasons why. Seemingly everyone has a horror story of a manager who belittles team members, promises raises or promotions that never materialize, ignores simmering interpersonal conflicts, mismanages important projects, yells and screams but rarely praises—and some are guilty of many, if not all of these behaviors.

But they’re not the ones for whom Boss’s Day, which falls every year on October 16th, is observed. Boss’s Day is about celebrating the good leaders, the ones who make us want to come to work in the morning and, more importantly, come back again tomorrow.

What’s most interesting about a good boss is that, while there is a set of behaviors that define one—effective communication, timely and proactive coaching, the ability to bring out the best in people, recognizing and unleashing their team members’ potential, to name a few—the specifics of what separates good bosses from bad can also be somewhat subjective.

With that in mind, on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook we posed two simple questions: “What makes your boss great?” and “What makes a good boss?"

Predictably, the answers we received to these questions reflected both a diversity of perspectives and the quality of the relationships great bosses build with their people.

Here’s a sampling of the responses we received to these two questions:

“My greatest boss was empowering, which enabled me to have autonomy and self-mastery. He was still there for me to help remove roadblocks … There was a mutual trust. I didn’t see trust, but to me that is the highest and most basic trait you need in any relationship to be successful. He trusted and believed in me, and I trusted him to be honest and lead me down the right path.”

"I was blessed to [have] worked with a few of those leaders and it was truly inspiring and productive ... Steve Jobs said, ‘It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so [you] can tell us what to do.’ If you are a control freak as a leader or manager, you are the barrier to your own growth. Don't hire robots who follow all your orders.”

“A good boss is courageous. Brave enough to be vulnerable; to call others out; to challenge cultural inertia; to empower [his or her] team; to engage in self-reflection and check one’s own behaviors; to admit the answers are not always one’s own; to trust one’s team and to allow failure with grace and support, and the knowledge that lessons will be learned.”

“No boss is perfect, but with willingness to get involved and get to know about his/her team, it's gonna be one great starter to be an awesome one!”

“My boss (leader) trusts me, empowers me, and is always available to support me without removing responsibility. He makes his team his first priority, and truly cares about our individual success before his own.”

This Boss’s Day, we hope you can proudly say you work for a great boss. And if you are a boss, whether you’re a first-level manager or a senior executive, we hope the comments above reflect the behaviors you put on display every day and the relationships you aspire to build with your people.

Happy Boss’s Day! 

Learn how DDI can help accelerate your leaders for maximum business impact.

David Tessmann-Keys is president of DDI. He is committed to promoting a workplace where both men and women have opportunities to advance their careers and to realize their full potential.

Posted: 10 Oct, 2018,
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