We can all recall a favourite boss we liked or admired and I certainly have one or two people in mind as I write this blog. For those of us who are in management or leadership positions or who aspire to have a management or leadership role, it might be worthwhile to examine what makes a good boss.
When we think about a favourite boss from our past working lives he or she will stand apart for their particular attributes. Maybe he or she was viewed by you as being supportive. fair or inspirational. Whatever the reason you probably felt that you could develop both personally and professionally because you were learning in a supportive environment. This is what good bosses do: they inspire their employees and teams to be their best selves at work. They will be genuine and authentic as well as being honest and supportive in their dealings. They will really care about their employees and seek to develop them professionally.
Employees will want a boss they can trust, who gives clear direction but also gives honest feedback. They will expect guidance and mentoring and they also expect to be trusted. They will expect fair treatment and a secure working environment. They will also want reward and recognition for their work contribution and a good boss will build employees’ confidence and inspire them to achieve more in their daily work.
To be a good boss you will need to be trusted, to have the best interests of the organisation and its employees at heart. While you will hold everyone, especially yourself, accountable you will have a structure in place which supports and mentors all staff in executing their roles. You will support employee and staff development and help them to achieve their goals and be their best selves at work.
You should seek to secure the trust of those you manage. This requires you to be honest, transparent, fair and impartial in your dealings with staff. A good boss provides honest feedback so you need to be a good communicator with good interpersonal skills. You need to also be consistent in your actions, be recognised as a good problem solver whose demeanour is confident but never arrogant.
Over the years I have observed or engaged with some managers and bosses who believed that they must know everything and be the smartest in the workplace. You should never adopt such an attitude as people respect humility from their bosses. Nobody is the fount of all wisdom. I can also recall engaging with managers and bosses who micromanaged and thereby showed their lack of trust in others. Good bosses recognise the skills of their staff and willingly delegate to them by giving them the autonomy to act in accordance with their job specifications. A good boss should be like the conductor of the orchestra; make things happen by conducting others.
Being a good role model or leading by example must mean that you, as a boss, actually manage others by giving direction only when necessary and ensuring that the work efforts of the individual employees are compatible with the organisation’s goals and objectives. The best bosses do this seamlessly and don’t need to show that they are always in charge. They have the self-restraint to stop meddling unnecessarily.
Failure to trust, failure to listen, failure to get to know work colleagues can be other factors that impact the role of the boss. The best bosses are good listeners and they show that they are interested in the lives of their work colleagues and employees. Bosses who show they care really show their respect for others. If you are a boss then showing respect is a reflection of your character as it is of others.
In my own leadership roles, I have always taken the view that you are only as good as the people around you. A good boss knows that a good recruitment strategy is the cornerstone of future success. In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way – Tina Fey.
Ensuring that new staff are properly inducted is a key priority for ensuring success. A good boss will always want to make sure that new recruits to the organisation are fully integrated and that they know and identify with its culture, values, mission and goals. A good start is half the battle, so a boss should invest time and energy to get to know and grow new recruits to the organisation. The greatest gift of leadership is a boss who wants you to be successful – Joe Taffer.
A good boss balances being professional with being human. Many people leave organisations because of their relationships with their bosses. The boss is ultimately responsible for the organisation, sector, unit or team for which he or she is accountable. Bosses have bosses too; they might be the organisation’s directors or customers and these will judge performance and outcomes. Accountability in the workplace means that individuals, whether employees or bosses, are responsible for their actions, behaviours, performance and decisions and will be held accountable in this context.
To lead others you must first lead yourself. Mastering oneself is true power – Lao Tzu. A good boss needs firstly to be effective at self-leading if he or she is to be effective at leading and managing others. If you are a boss you should take time to focus on yourself and on how you could improve but also listen to others for trusted feedback. Self-leadership is often a difficult task but failure to manage yourself could easily undermine the respect others may have for you. Indeed, leading oneself can sometimes be more difficult than leading others, but ultimately a boss will be assessed by actions, words, attitude and behaviour. You reap what you sow, and therefore as a boss, it is important that you earn and maintain the respect, commitment and dedication of others in the workplace.
Self-awareness requires you to focus on self-improvement and personal development. You are always a work in progress and never the finished product. Good bosses know that self-development goes hand-in-hand with developing others. Good bosses must also be good role models for the people they lead. They know that a positive, supportive work environment, where people feel valued, appreciated and can grow and thrive, is their responsibility.
Finally, if a boss wants others to be their best selves, then he or she must aspire to be the best boss. Not an easy task but one that always requires work. Good bosses must be self-starters who can motivate themselves as well as others. They know that success depends not just on how good they are as leaders but also on how committed are their employees, staff or team. Ultimately, success is about team effort.
(Feature photo by Brock Lark on Unsplash)