People love to talk about all the juicy details surrounding their boss; "He’s an insult-barking narcissist," "She’s such an inspiration to work for," and everything in between. An employer may have an attractive catalog of fun perks and benefits, but without good leadership, retaining employees will feel like you’re pedaling on a stationary bike that can never be steered forward.
Google conducted research back in 2008, known as Project Oxygen, to study what types of qualities and behaviors make up the most successful managers. As the modern workplace evolves, they refine their training programs to align with employee needs, coaching managers in areas like decision-making, team development and empowerment, collaboration, communication tactics, and encouraging a shared vision.
They continue to dedicate resources towards researching and evaluating the types of behaviors that define an effective leader. Why? They understand the power of building a management team that can inspire productivity and innovation, directly contributing to employee happiness and retention.
As Simon Sinek, motivational speaker and author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action says, “A good leader takes care of those in their charge. A bad leader takes charge of those in their care.” And he’s right. Bosses that are truly unforgettable - the ones that motivate us to constantly reach higher - can have a profound impact on both our personal and professional lives.
So, what exactly are the qualities that characterize a great boss? Here's a look.
They Coach Their Team
According to Gallup, managers who take on a coaching persona are highly effective in the workplace. They encourage open, transparent dialog, partake in more personalized interactions, focus on their employees’ strengths, and influence performance by investing time in each individual’s professional development. Great coaches are infectiously passionate about their job and understand how empathy, authenticity, and a vision that is both shared and strategic, can be highly impactful.
Even in Inclement Weather, They See Opportunity
When chaos erupts and unexpected roadblocks arise, they don’t sit idly and wait for the storm to blow over. Instead, they embrace uncertainty, knowing that their team needs a leader when a crisis ensues. Take a page out of Hawkeye’s book in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Buildings are crumbling and the whole 'let's save the world' outlook seems bleak. Yet, he still persists, saying “Ok, look, the city is flying, we're fighting an army of robots, and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense. But I'm going back out there ‘cause it's my job.”
Sure, running towards a humanoid villain made of a fictional metal is probably not a challenge most bosses will face, but it shows how great leaders aren’t ratted under pressure. They see the opportunity in disruption, using unforeseen hurdles as an occasion to revisit outdated practices, reassure and inspire team members, and engineer new strategies to enhance workflow moving forward.
They Support All Shades of Purpose
Memorable bosses work to achieve more than just short and long-term company goals. They are driven to fulfill a larger multi-dimensional purpose, like inspiring confidence, self-recognition, and an overall sense of satisfaction in one’s work. In addition, they nurture individual career advancement and help guide those who are barely treading water towards dry land. Great managers drill down to the individual level, recognizing that each employee represents a piece of the total puzzle. They get to know each person’s strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and workplace preferences to foster engagement and create an environment that draws upon each individual’s unique talents.
They Don’t Need a Scapegoat
The not-so-great bosses out there are quick to throw their staff under the bus, especially if it means diverting negative attention away from their corner. Unforgettable bosses would never use their people as scapegoats. What’s more, they protect their employees; pulling them out of sticky situations even when individuals may be unaware of the can of worms they’ve unleashed. When warranted, great bosses will take the hit themselves, and then focus their efforts on coaching the team. By transforming the obstacle into a learning experience, it helps stop unwanted messes from recurring in the future.
They’re Authentic and Transparent
Good bosses are more than just unapologetically real, they’re personable and sincere. They aren’t some mighty figurehead that sits behind closed doors. Rather, they’re openly human, easily relatable, and don’t shy away from expressing their emotions – professionally, of course. Instead of lying, they show humility, admitting to their mistakes and providing employees with the opportunity to learn from them. There’s a tremendous strength in accountability and transparency. It keeps employees from spending their afternoon chewing anxiously on their nails because they work under a boss that is unpredictable or untrustworthy.
They Roll up Their Sleeves & Work
Rather than strutting around like they’re too cool for school, great bosses will happily roll up their sleeves and get involved in the action. No task is considered too menial or below their pay-grade, as they know that the team’s success hinges upon their collective contributions. This, among other behaviors, inspires employees to want to work for their boss – not because their title screams authority, but because they respect that person as a leader.
The marionette, who micromanages and pulls the strings of their employees like faceless puppets, will never be an effective leader. Great bosses lead by example, using their actions and words to teach and inspire their team to reach new levels of success each day.