What makes for a good boss? Let me count the ways… More important, what can you do today to be a better boss?

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Like great works of art, a good boss is hard to define. Most people know it when they work for one. The word “boss” conjures up memories of the good, the bad and the ugly ones we’ve endured throughout our careers.

Stanford University management professor Robert I. Sutton, PhD, author of the New York Times bestseller The No Asshole Rule, knows about bosses. He’s received thousands of emails about the bad ones since the 2007 publication of that title. In his following book, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best…and Learn from the Worst (Business Plus, 2010) Sutton focuses on what it takes to be a better boss:

“Devoting relentless attention to doing one good thing after another—however small—is the only path I know to becoming and remaining a great boss,” he writes. “I wish I could promise you that the path was easier.”

Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a restaurant owner, athletic coach or store manager, your success depends on how well you deal with the people who surround you. In any position of authority, great or small, you’re expected to personally guide, inspire and, of course, discipline.

Anytime you have more power than others, you must interact in productive ways and you’ll face strong emotions and gut reactions. A boss evokes feelings of confidence and comfort, as well as insecurity, fear, anger and confusion.

When I’m coaching, we spend a great deal of time sorting out the emotional components of work relationships. Here’s why:

  • Feelings get triggered in every communication medium: face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, emails, text messages and video conferences.
  • Emotions intensify when relationships are inherently unequal.

In many situations, the boss-employee relationship requires that you work “up close and personal,” which means you’re exposed to others’ quirks, foibles and habits. How you navigate and tolerate personal differences matters.

To benefit your team and company, you must excel at accepting differences and finding workarounds. Sometimes a simple understanding of basic personality traits helps and assessments and workshops can help with this.

To be a better boss, there are no magic bullets, and the work may seem relentless. Besides getting things done and meeting performance objectives, you must shepherd your people through every hard turn. Your principal rewards for success are keeping your job and receiving even more responsibilities and challenges.

The best bosses keep chipping away at a huge pile of tasks—some interesting, others dull but necessary. Their leadership prowess is measured by how well they handle the frustrations associated with people and performance.

In the work I do in organizations and with executives, I’ve found that there are some important attitudes that set the stage for becoming a better boss. In my  next posts, I’ll tell you about five mindsets good leaders need to have. Stay tuned.

(Image by Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net)