What Makes a Good Boss? The Top 12 Qualities & Attributes

Lauren Hamer

Professional Resume Writer, Career Writer and Career Coach

Think back to the best boss you’ve ever had—does someone come to mind? We hope so! Okay, now think back to the worst boss you’ve ever had. I’m sure you can conjure up a few faces. 

Not everyone is primed to be a leader and, unfortunately, few people know exactly what makes a good boss. Effective leaders (yes, good bosses are actually leaders) are often the most influential people in an employee’s career development. Become a good one, and you become the example for making everyone around you better.

Below, we’ll outline what makes a good boss and why becoming one should be a priority.

10 Characteristics and Attributes of a Great Boss

“A Good Boss is Better Than a Good Company” – Jack Ma

Employers want loyal employees, but employees rarely get that same loyalty in return. It’s simple, really: employees who feel cared for perform better—yet the internet is ripe with various notions of the concept, “employees don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad bosses.” 

Why? Because no one likes feeling unsupported and undervalued, and when they do, they’ll go looking for better opportunities. Good bosses—truly good bosses—can break this cycle of loyalty versus performance. Building a healthy working relationship requires effort from the boss and the employee, which not only drives company success, but also better policies, feedback, and work culture.

As an effective leader, you should do what you can to build a healthy working relationship with your workforce. Your company performance and success is often tied to the effectiveness of your internal leadership—and no one wants to work for a sinking ship.

What Makes a Good Boss?

A good boss is only a “boss” by name. Good bosses are actually leaders who delegate appropriately, mentor thoughtfully, and communicate constantly, among other things. Employees look for certain qualities and characteristics that are typical of a good boss. If you possess these, then you have a better chance of fostering relationships and building a productive, successful, and happy workforce.

1. A Good Boss has a Clear Vision

good boss sets a clear vision and brings his employees along

Bosses can influence or inspire without a mission—an end goal, a purpose, or an objective. With a shared vision, bosses can direct their team upward toward continual progress, armed with defined strategies their team can leverage to move the organization closer to success.

Then, they’ll get to work. A good boss checks in with the team to assess roadblocks and wins then finds ways to change course as needed to hit milestones.

2. Is Emotionally Intelligent

Great bosses aren’t just experts in their industry. They also tend to be people experts. Though emotions motivate us, great leaders can separate feelings from emotions. This means that they react less from feelings, which impacts how their emotions are being perceived by the people around them.

So, as a good boss, be slow to react and be sure to take time to think about how your reactions could be perceived. An emotionally intelligent boss can be great at resolving conflict and encouraging open communication when they think rationally before they act.

3. Prioritizes the Process

We all love a teachable moment- in fact, employees appreciate leaders who take the time to teach- and teach properly. Teachable moments fueled by the common “here, I’ll do it” or “watch me” can breed a culture of dependence and inadequacy.

Instead, leaders should find ways to show the correct process, explain the reasoning behind each step, and coach employees through performing the process. In this way, you can build more competent teams, who have the ability to teach their peers.

4. Delegates Thoughtfully

Leaders delegate without micromanaging. Mastering the art of delegation—true delegation that motivates and develops employees—only happens if leaders are comfortable sharing authority. Think about how you feel when your boss entrusts you with a key project. It proves they have faith in your ability to succeed. On the other hand, bosses who only hand off the smaller tasks have a control problem, which means employees will have less opportunity for growth and advancement.

5. Sets Clear Performance Expectations

There is nothing more frustrating than going in a loop with employees about what you want and what they give you. While the first reaction is to believe the employee is incompetent, only great leaders will consider how employees are receiving information and direction. If you give instructions, but you don’t set clear performance expectations, then it is difficult to get high-quality work.

If you want your employees to be more productive, then this extends beyond just one project. Each employee should have an idea of what is expected them concerning their conduct, quality of work, and professional development. This could be outlined in key performance metrics, so you can track progress and consistently communicate success.

6. Recognizes and Rewards Good Performance

Many employees have experienced hypercritical bosses. Bosses who are always pointing out flaws tend to create a work environment that is toxic and unwilling to take risks. Instead, great bosses should go beyond an annual review to continually recognize and reward achievements, accomplishments, and performance.

This is not to say that you can’t constructively critique your employees, but you should find ways to balance out the criticism with praise. You don’t even have to make a big show—little things matter most.

7. Gives Honest and Regular Feedback

Good bosses keep the line of communication open with their employees. This includes making space for regular feedback and coaching conversations. Employees, especially young employees, want opportunities for growth and development. As an employer, if you take the time to coach them and give them feedback, it helps

  • maximize their strengths
  • close skills gaps
  • drive learning and development

8. Avoids Quick-Fixes

Bosses who can see the forest through the trees are much more effective at building teams equipped for long-term success. A good boss won’t fall back on quick fixes to address daily fires. They’ll look beyond the current chaos and make decisions that support what they believe is the best way to solve a problem, even if it takes time to reap the benefits.

9. Mentors Their Workforce

A good boss doesn’t just assign mentors. A good boss is a mentor. That means being aware of, assessing, and guiding your employee’s professional development. Mentoring goes beyond just transferring knowledge. It is about prioritizing continuous dialogue that focuses on maximizing the unique skills present among all team members.

10. Shows Genuine Care

Happy people do better work. The best way to show that you genuinely care about the people you work with is by creating a supportive and inclusive environment. In that environment, everyone should be comfortable voicing opinions, sharing struggles, and giving praise. That level of communication and transparency all starts with you being honest, open, and ready to accept different views.

11. Sparks Inspiration

A good boss knows how to motivate their team. Their words inspire and their actions model their expectations. Even more, they understand what might and might not motivate their workforce. Because everyone is different and is motivated by various factors, a true leader will ask how each individual likes to be led. In that, they’ll find ways to adjust their leadership style to their workforce.

12. Communicates Constantly

A good boss won’t hoard vital information or keep you on a need-to-know basis.  They’ll share everything relevant, such as updates on company performance, sales metrics, team progress, current projects impacting your team, and process changes.

What’s more, they’ll share the big picture. A good boss will give insight into how your role is impacting the organization and its customers. They’ll also remind your team about the mission and the role each person plays in achieving organizational goals.

Find a True Leader, Not Just a Boss

By now it’s pretty clear: not all bosses are leaders. Bosses control outcomes. Leaders put trust in their employees to do what’s right. Bosses are results-driven and self-promotional. Leaders are passionate mentors. They believe in the shared vision and have fun bringing the vision to life. 

As someone who wants to lead a workforce, your primary goal should be to nurture and grow your workforce to success. As you grow into the good boss you were destined to be, remember these 12 attributes to help ensure success.

1 Comment

  1. Steve Dickey Reply

    Overall, this is an upbeat, admirable set of boss characteristics. If a boss can deliver on most if not all of this, then the team should collectively feel they are being led, not just directed. However, in my work with companies’ workforces, there is also a critical element called out by better team members to ensure fair balance of contribution. I agree a leader should work to do all twelve to the best of their ability but also “weed” out those who eventually show they can’t or won’t deliver comparable to their peers. A team can’t be happy if they know their leader is causing them to carry the burden of continuing low performers.

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