It’s pretty easy to distinguish what makes a bad boss. Perhaps because the experience of having one stays with us for so long and with such dreadful clarity! But what about good bosses? What are the traits that we really value in our leaders? What kinds of actions and reactions make us remember them fondly, or help us turn those Monday blues into clear blue skies?
We decided to find out…
Honesty is a great trait to have in any circumstance, but in the world of business, it becomes particularly invaluable. Honesty in a boss goes hand in hand with transparency and having enough respect for your employees to be honest and clear with them about when things are going badly, not just well.
In the case of the disgraced former CEO of Boeing, Dennis Muilenburg, it was his lack of honesty that was the final nail in his coffin at the company. After Boeing design flaws caused the deaths of 346 people, Muilenburg held fast his opinion that the flaws would be simple to fix. Months of grounded flights later with no fix in sight and no closure for the families, both the public and Boeing’s employees lost faith in his leadership.
Given the hierarchical structure of most modern businesses, empathy is a particularly useful trait to have as a company leader, enabling you to build more balance and connection between you and your colleagues. Thinking about others - particularly those who might be in a less fortunate position than you - is something employees hold in high esteem.
Take ex-footballer Gary Neville, for example, who opened up his chain of hotels to struggling doctors and nurses during the pandemic, boosting his public image through this simple act of kindness.
These days, most brands have a personality or ‘purpose’. It can be a great way to build a following amongst consumers…as long as it’s genuine. Bosses will always come under fire when a brand seems disingenuous. Take Oatly, for example. The oat milk brand had long pedalled a cheeky but ultimately “good” brand narrative that painted its CEO Toni Peterson as a “reserved and humble” man, and Oatly’s “Employee of the Year” on its packaging.
Fine, until Oatly tried (and failed) to sue a much smaller, family-run oat milk brand. Not so reserved and humble when faced with a rival brand, apparently! As expected, there was public outrage and Oatly’s CEO-serving branding is now met with much skepticism.
A little generosity can go a long way. Bosses don’t need to break the bank when it comes to perks, but giving more than is typical of a corporate company can really set you apart from the rest. Take Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky, as a good example. From free organic lunches and parking to commuting allowances, health insurance and plenty of paid leave, he frequently tops ‘world’s best boss’ lists, for these simple but generous gestures.
Jump straight to a key chapter