Positive qualities of my best bosses

I’ve been giving some thought to the personal qualities of the many bosses I’ve worked for, going back to high school and extending to the present day. A handful stand out as being especially good, and I’ve come to realize that they shared a lot of positive characteristics. Here goes:

1. They all were very hard workers. They didn’t preach a work ethic; they exemplified it.

2. Interestingly, not one was charismatic or dazzling in terms of personality. And yet, they inspired others and led effectively in their own ways.

3. They were very smart and good at what they did, whether it was managing a retail store staff, writing a complex legal brief, or designing a new curriculum.

4. They earned respect quietly, expressed appreciation when it was merited, and brought out your best. A word of praise could make my day, because I knew it was sincere and meaningful.

5. They gave you room to be yourself, quirks and all, instead of insisting that you emulate them.

6. They didn’t bully or mistreat people. Instead, they treated everyone with respect and dignity.

7. There was no task beneath them. No princes or princesses. They’d jump in and do the same work you were doing if it needed to get done.

8. They arrived at difficult decisions fairly and without hidden agendas.

9. They were trustworthy. Their words counted for something.

I’m not suggesting that these should be the universal factors for what makes a great boss. We all have our preferences, and people may have honest differences over what’s important.

Nevertheless, I think this is a pretty good list, and I’m betting that many readers will nod their heads in agreement.

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4 responses

  1. I have worked for some good bosses and unfortunately some of the worst. The attributes you describe David, were those my father displayed during his many years in business. Living until his mid 90’s and after 30 years out of business, many of his former employees remained his friends. How times have changed.

  2. I have worked with bosses who terrified me. I knew they not only did not care one bit about me as an employee or an individual, I felt they were more interested in putting me in place than getting the job done.

    But last year, the 2011- 2012 school year, I had the most astoundingly responsible and caring supervisor of special education I have ever had. I sincerely believe that if I had started out with her instead of the other two school districts I worked for, I would have been much more confident in the job and not so insecure that lefSt me open to the bullying I experienced.

    Her name is Sue. She was kind. She was organized. She was reassuring. She was patient and welcoming. The paperwork in special education is overwhelming and legalistic. The legal aspects are easy enough for people with a background in legalities, but teachers are not trained in that and we are far more interested and prepared for all the teaching issues. Motivating children, developing reading and critical thinking, etc. The legal aspects are daunting and frankly do not advance the improvement of children’s education all that much.

    Through working with Sue I came to realize how absolutely incompetent all other supervisors I have had were. They told, but did not teach. They discouraged mistakes, rather than encouraged effort. The school I was at was undergoing some major changes in who did what paperwork. Everyone was uncertain and nervous. She was reassuring. She said she would come back to the school as often as we needed her to to go over the processes until we had it down. She did not sneer at mistakes and she encouraged us to call / email her when we had questions. It was the first time I felt confident when I submitted an IEP/evaluation.

  3. I’m certainly nodding my head in agreement. And as I review the qualities of the bosses I admired and learned from, I find I remember them laughing and having genuine interest in other people as well as personal interests that they spent time on and talked about. They sewed or played an instrument or gardened or were hikers… there was evidence that they had a life outside of work and enjoyed it. They were visible in the workplace, and workers did not alter their behaviour in the presence of the boss. I actually find it difficult to think of them as “the boss”- they had names I remember fondly along with memories of non-work-related pleasant conversations.

    I had less inspiring bosses elsewhere, most of whom I never knew much about outside their job titles. I don’t recall ever hearing much about their outside interests or activities, and don’t recall many of their names. Probably says as much about me as it does about them..

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