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The Best Bosses Are…

What Every Employee Wants from You as a Leader

by DeEtta Jones
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Do you ever feel overwhelmed as a manager? Being overburdened by the responsibility of having to figure out what others want and need of you is a familiar feeling shared among leaders. Fortunately, there is a “best practice” for obtaining just the kind of information needed to increase your leadership effectiveness—ask them what they want. 

The following 10 traits have emerged when front line staff, supervisors and middle managers have been asked to describe the traits they look for in a boss. As you read through their “wish list,” think about the kind of boss you are, the kind you want to be, and what you look for in a good boss.  

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Employees want bosses who are:  

  1. Innovative

Good bosses have good ideas but their role in innovation is more as facilitator than consummate mastermind. They are not threatened by the talent of their employees, and cultivate a working environment that allows each person's creativity to come forward. They facilitate innovation.  

  1. Coaches

Good bosses provide important education and guidance that helps an employee see how her work is contributing to the larger goals of the organization. They help employees build confidence by giving stretch assignments that require demonstration of new skills and right-sized risk, then feedback that allows needed course corrections to be made early enough to avoid a major failure.  When employees do fail, good bosses encourage reflection and identification of learning that can be applied to future endeavors.  

  1. Caring

Good bosses listen to their employees and show an interest in their opinion. They provide opportunities to talk openly, showing interest in their employees’ opinion. They encourage personal and professional growth, sometimes by giving access to resources (like professional development experiences) and sometimes by removing barriers.  

  1. Strategic

Good bosses can make hard choices and have the finesse needed to get people behind even sometimes unpopular decisions. They are able to secure resources for important initiative worth pursuing. They use analytical frameworks for guiding change, promoting transparent processes and communication. Strategic bosses are decisive (not to be confused with closed-minded or dogmatic). Once a decision has been made, they stick with it and avoid changing directions quickly or sending mixed messages. 

  1. Visionary

Good bosses are also visionary managers, able to clearly see and build a commitment toward a compelling future state. They articulate a sense of direction, map out the path and shepherd the process. 

  1. Demonstrate Trustworthiness

A good boss is genuine, has integrity, and behaves in a manner consistent with his word and values. Employees trust bosses they know to be intelligent, capable and have a demonstrated track record of acting in their best interest. They give and receive (even invite) feedback, affirmative and constructive. They are fully aware of their scope of power in the organization and in their relationship with employees, how an off-handed comment or unpleasant glance may ruin someone's entire weekend.  

  1. Accessible and Adaptable

Good bosses are able to balance how they give support and direction with the freedom employees need to do their work, acknowledging the level of experience and expertise over his domain. They understand that each employee comes to the workplace with unique experiences, needs and cultural lenses that will require individualized attention and support, and can adapt their own style to ensure effective communication and levels of productivity. 

  1. Passionate

A good boss has a fire their belly about something--particularly the vision, mission of the organization and the people with whom they work and who their products and services are meant to touch. They are the first to roll up their sleeves to contribute, and model the level of motivation and quality required for achievement of organizational goals. They help employees stay connected to their own passion by encouraging the sharing of ideas and then helping to shape them to fit within and be supported by the larger organization.  

  1. Champions

People want to know that the person to whom they report is on their side, even when mistakes are made. Champions look for opportunities to catch their employees doing a good job, and go out of their way to point it out. They don't take the credit for their employees' work, and they don't throw an employee under the bus--ever. They “influence up" by being a conduit between their employees and higher level decision makers, often helping their employees develop the language and influence strategies needed to take an idea to the top of the organization.  

  1. Fun

Good bosses are willing to laugh and value a work environment that encourages meaningful relationships between colleagues. They inspire us by making the connection from our head to our heart about the importance of our work and our value to the company.  

Here’s the leadership next step: reflect on the list and identify qualities you are modeling.  Think about where there is room for growth in your leadership practice—growth that will lead to increased levels of motivation and engagement. Finally, begin today encouraging your employees to share their own needs allowing for timely adjustments. 

Remember, leadership is a journey. Bon voyage! 

About the Author

DeEtta Jones is a leadership strategist, social justice advocate and author. She has more than 20 years of experience working with individual leaders and teams in some of the world’s most prominent universities and corporations. Her multidimensional background and fresh perspective leaves clients feeling heard and empowered to take on some of the major organizational and workforce challenges of our times. For more information or to have DeEtta speak at your next event, please visit