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What Makes a Great Boss, Well, Great?

No one loves their boss all the time. That’s OK: good managers should care more about getting results and supporting their team than making their reports into their new best friends. Of course, the question is, do you have a good manager, or is your boss standing in your way instead of moving you forward? To clarify your thinking, we present a few traits of managers who are truly great bosses:
great boss
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1. They Take Your Call (and Really Listen)

When upper management will actually listen to the little guy (not just rip off ideas, Working Girl-style), then there’s a good chance you’re looking at a good boss. You don’t want a boss who’s all stick and no carrot, after all. And if you have complaints or ideas to share about how the company can be better, it’s ideal to have a receptive forum. Your boss’ boss should also strive to be receptive to ideas and challenges to the status quo, too. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s famous “How am I doin’?” is a question to which we should want an honest answer.

Great bosses are receptive to ideas and challenges to the status quo.Click To Tweet

2. They Make Sure Everyone Gets Creative

Bosses who inspire continual creativity in their employees rarely regret it. After all, what’s better: One creative mind, or 25? When you integrate creative thinking and opportunity into everyday work life, you get many more opportunities for out-of-the-box thinking, and you’ll get a bigger payoff, too. Imagine a continuous whiteboard session at work, where ideas flow like cheap coffee. That sounds pretty rad.

3. They Don’t Set You Up to Fail (They Help Cushion the Fall)

Bosses who stack the deck for you to fail are just hurting the company (and themselves). It’s better for the boss to try to understand what will help an employee to succeed, and to make changes in their team to best suit everyone’s skillset. If a boss isn’t clear on the objectives of a task, then they can’t be mad when they’re not met. Clear communication of goals makes sure that everyone has the right finish line in mind. But if things go off the rails, great bosses make sure that they carry out a postmortem that doesn’t make everyone think the sky is falling. There are always lessons to be learned, even from failure.

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4. They Steer the Ship, Instead of Jumping It

There’s a reason for that old tradition of the captain going down with the ship: they’re essential for keeping it afloat for the longest possible time. When your captain decides that a crisis means they go home and you figure it out somehow, then that’s a bad sign you’re about to get iceberg’d. Instead, a great boss knows that when the you-know-what hits the fan, everyone will be looking up to them for direction and levelheadedness. Think Apollo 13: when your spaceship is damaged and you’re faced with the cold vacuum of space, a great boss is one who puts on his special vest and tells everyone that it’s about to be their finest hour. Yeah. Great boss stuff there.

Tell Us What You Think

What makes a great boss? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

This post was updated from an earlier version previously published on PayScale.


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Dawn Paxton

I aspire to be a great boss, but I always wanted to elevate my staff to go beyond the position they were in. Keep elevating their game! These are good points above. Thank you.

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