On Leadership: Things a Great Boss Always Does


Office SpaceWhen we recently asked our Facebook and Twitter followers what a great boss never does, our readers were not shy about letting us know what kind of person they don't want occupying the corner office. We got some great answers, such as, A great boss never… “assumes he or she is the smartest person in the room,” and, A great boss never...“asks the members of his/her team to do something he/she isn't willing to do, too.”

But it's too easy to think in negative terms—what’s more difficult is crafting useful advice for those folks who occupy the top job in the organization.

So, we polled our Facebook and Twitter audiences again, this time asking our readers what a great boss always does. Here are some of the best responses:

“A great boss always…listens.”

Executives, take note—here is our most popular response. It's been said that we have two ears and one tongue so that we may hear more and speak less. Listening is a difficult art, but for executives it’s crucial that employees think they are tuned in.

“A great boss always…leads by example.”

No employee wants to feel like he or she has to do something the boss wouldn’t (or couldn’t) do. Leading by example is important because employees want to feel like collaborators, not serfs.

“A great boss always…challenges you to be better.”

Landing the top job at any company is no easy feat, so by default there must be something to learn from the person sitting at the head of the table. By challenging employees, a great boss encourages improvement, wielding the mantle of his or her position in a constructive way.

“A great boss always…has my back.”

Engaged employees feel like they are part of a team and, by extension of that metaphor, that means that their boss is their coach. A great boss should stand up for his or her employees the same way a coach campaigns for the benefit and advantage of his players—even when they’ve done something wrong.

“A great boss always…encourages the next generation of leaders to rise up.”

The best executives leave their mark on a company not just by what they do themselves—they create more lasting legacies by shaping their companies' group of emerging leaders. Not being afraid to cede responsibility to up-and-coming managers is also a sign that a great boss is comfortable in a leadership role.

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Follow Brian Greene on Twitter: @bwilliamgreene




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  • Gail

    I would also like to add that a great boss recognizes the positive things as well as things that need improvement. In other words, give positive feedback to your employees, not just the negative. And always speak to them with the respect that an adult deserves.

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  • GoldCollarMan

    A great boss is a team player who’s humble and quick to give credit where credit is due — and to accept fault without making excuses or pointing fingers.

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  • James W D

    Thanks much for sharing this. These are definitely all things that I agree with and wish more bosses would pay attention too. You have inspired me to be a better leader.

  • Andrea

    A great boss….praise you publicly and corrects you privately.

  • Asylum Hole

    Wow! not one business I have worked for had bosses like this. They all seemed to be the complete opposite. The only place that seemed to be even close was the military! Go figure….

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  • EJ7447

    “A great boss always stands up for their employees”…I have seen this done to the detriment of a situation when trying to solve a problem with different entities. It is great to ‘have your employees back’ but when your people are in the wrong, you need to understand that anyone can make a mistake but blindly taking your “team’s” side is not always the correct thing to do. I would not ‘hang them out to dry’ but a leader needs to understand that just because they are ‘his or her’ people, that does not always make them right.

  • Kelly Hadous

    A great boss is understanding yet firm, and productive yet knows when to take a break.