Good Bosses vs. Bad Bosses

Want to Be a Better Boss? Good Advice for Success

I recently had the chance to participate in a virtual mentoring program through my alma mater. I was responsible for serving as a mentor coordinator and reviewing the exchanges between students taking an introduction to leadership class and working professionals who served as mentors. The discussion topics were all about leadership, which led to a lot of discussions about what makes a good leader. Although many would argue that there is a strong distinction between leadership and management, many of the exchanges revolved around what makes a good boss.

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We all know that many people work for bosses who aren’t necessarily leaders in the organization, but many people judge the leadership of the organization by the person that directly supervises them, so in that case leadership is about management.

What makes a good boss? According to some of the exchanges between students and mentors, these are some things that make a good boss:

1) Be humble. Just because you are the boss, doesn’t mean you will always be right. One mentor said that in their tenure they’ve learned that in order to be a good boss you have to be open to feedback. They also went on to say that it’s very likely, as the boss, that you “aren’t going to have the best ideas.” Well said. Being the boss doesn’t mean you always have the right answer on your own, but it does mean you know how to execute on the best ideas. Another mentor said it this way, “Being humble is one of the most difficult yet powerful skills a leader can master.”

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2) Know your team. Another mentor said the best thing about his boss is that he knew his team. He knew their strengths and weaknesses and what abilities they had. In addition, he always laid out clear goals so the team knew what was expected. In this mentor’s opinion, knowing your team was one of the most critical elements of what makes a good boss.

3) Provide structure. Another mentor said that what makes a great boss is when they give direction and structure. He said that people need to be told what to do and guided along the path to success. So, it’s important that a good boss provides clear directions and boundaries.

4) Always be respectful. The last example I’ll share about what makes a good boss is a simple motto that one mentor shared. He said, “I live by the rule that you never know who you might be working for one day. So treat everyone like they’re your boss.” I thought those were wise words. If you treat everyone with the same respect and kindness as you do your boss then, no matter who your boss is or who you may be the boss of one day, you’ll share mutual respect.

I think these are some important reminders of what it takes to be a good boss. If everyone shared these and other bits of wisdom within their organizations I know that we could transform the leadership (management) with an organization. Then we wouldn’t have so many people asking, “What makes a good boss?”


Stacey Carroll, CCP

Director of Professional Services

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