The Characteristics of a Great Boss

Being in charge is difficult. Not everyone is born with leadership skills, the characteristics of a great boss take time to develop and as with anything, mistakes are often made…

Being in charge is difficult. Not everyone is born with leadership skills, the characteristics of a great boss take time to develop and as with anything, mistakes are often made on the way. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have a great boss know to count their blessings, because the chances are, anyone who has ever had a job has endured an unfavorable employer.


For those lucky few to have never experienced it, a quick Google search will rapidly uncover literally thousands of horror stories recounting rude, obnoxious, sexist or otherwise shocking workplace behaviour. The surprising part is that it’s coming from the people at the top. A great boss should be the glue of the company, keeping it all together – not making it fall apart.

In a recent Gallup report on the State of The American Workplace, figures showed that great bosses are the main factor behind high staff engagement. Engaged staff are happy staff and more likely to stay, work hard and take less time off – they enjoy coming to work because their employers makes it worth it. So, with this in mind what exactly are the characteristics of a great boss?


A level of communication is essential to the characteristics of a great boss. Least of all, employees who feel like they exist on their boss’s radar are far more likely to feel appreciated than those who are ignored. A great boss, for example, won’t get involved with the office gossip but they will greet their employees by name, congratulate them on their birthdays and maybe even ask after their spouse/kids once in awhile.


When an employer shares their vision with their employees it goes without saying that they can then strive to achieve it together. A great boss will outline expectations and set clear goals for everyone to work towards. Sharing vision creates a sense of unity, making that much easier for everyone to effectively work as a team.


A great boss will have the ability to inspire their team as they lead by example. Leaders fearlessly strive to achieve goals, setting the pace for the rest to follow – as stated by leadership expert John Maxwell: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” A great boss knows that barking orders from the top, doesn’t necessarily get results.


A great boss understands that their staff crave feedback and will schedule regular employee evaluations to provide it (not just when someone needs a telling off). One of the main characteristics of a truly great boss is their ability to listen to their employees and offer genuinely constructive advice, criticism and support when needed.


Positive reinforcement is the key for a successful workforce and a great boss will give praise when it’s due. The tyrannical leadership tactics of the past don’t exist in the mind of a great boss, who knows that getting the best out of people doesn’t mean having to yell for it.


A great boss knows when to admit that they are wrong, and won’t be afraid to say it. A certain amount of confidence is needed to lead people, but there is a fine line between being self-assured and pig headed.


One of the most demoralising things a manager can do is hog all the credit for a group effort. A good boss with recognize credit where credit is due, a great boss however will “take a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” – John Maxwell.

A Great Boss is Created, Not Born

Unfortunately a great boss isn’t something that appears overnight and the characteristics and skills that make someone a good leader need to be learnt. Naturally some people do just have a talent for the role, but even they can make mistakes. Thankfully these days there is a multitude of information, seminars and books available to develop leadership skills, which brings us to the last characteristic – a truly great boss will never stop trying to improve themselves. What do you think? Feel free to leave your comments below.

Image reference – Flickr, Jessica Social Media Manager

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