Inspired by a business man I know.
Who wouldn’t like a boss you hardly ever see? Or one who never criticized or made demands, but gave ample rewards? We may joke that the ideal boss would never have any expectations, no standards, and would give bonuses if we just showed up on time.
My experience, however, doesn’t bear this out. People, adults as well as children, want guidelines, recognition, and encouragement. Nobody wants a micro-manager or one who belittles the employee or never shows appreciation. No, I’ll never buy that a regular paycheck is appreciation enough. Too many engineers have spent a lifetime studying the need for incentive for employees to continue doing a good job, as well as to improve.
So, what makes a good boss? I’ve oversimplified a list:
First, the ideal boss is someone you can respect. Needless to say many bosses fail step one. A boss who cheats on his or her spouse, stretches the truth, or does drugs, doesn’t earn much respect. For instance, if he or she betrays and deceives a spouse, how much more willing will he be to betray and deceive a mere employee? If he lies to a friend or a vendor, he’ll lie to me. If he or she breaks the law, he’ll break the rules with his employees. A Christian would like a Christian boss, but even the non-Christian wants a boss with high ideals who upholds the law and high standards of behavior.
Second, he or she should treat employees with respect, no matter what positions they hold. Good manners are appropriate at all levels; snobbery is not. Sherlock Holmes said that a gentleman treats every woman as though she were a lady. The point is that every person should be treated the same without regard to class, department, location, or personality. It’s a hard job for a boss to stay aware of all employees, even the quiet ones, and to make them all feel like they matter, but that is his duty as a boss. I hate hearing a middle manager talking about his or her "peers", like non-management or lower management are not as good as they are. Remarks like that offend and separate the manager from the people he supervises.
Third, the ideal boss should inspire and encourage employees to personal greatness. This is not a requirement of all bosses, just the outstanding ones. Positive reinforcement is always preferred over disciplinary action. Building up people to higher ideals and higher performance levels makes a good leader. Enthusiasm with substance and positive energy starts at the top and works its way down. Make every effort to be positive but never give in to phoney praise or "canned" enthusiasm. People will see right through phoniness and label that boss as a jerk.
Fourth, the ideal boss is competent at his craft and is willing to work. A hospital administrator may not be able to do everything the surgeons and technicians do, but nothing is beneath him and he’s willing to do whatever needs to be done within the limits of his abilities. He must be competent in his decision making and the role assigned to him. You can’t respect a boss who just gives orders but doesn’t make his own contribution. A slacker may still be the boss, but he’s not the ideal and won’t inspire his staff. In some circumstances, that boss must be willing to, for example, shovel snow, clean a toilet, answer phones, make a sale, drive a fork truck,or work extra hours, as conditions indicate.
Fifth, there must be mutual trust. The good boss will act on the belief that his employees are doing their job diligently. If he catches them talking, he will assume they are talking about a work related incident or that they are due a break in the pace. They in turn will trust him and not pretend to be working or run away like kids caught in the cookie jar. They believe him to be reasonable and will enjoy their work and give him their best. When it doesn’t work that way, the boss or the employee is less than ideal; trust is wanting.
The ideal boss is one in whom the employees believe. He or she is one who inspires them, who shares his own plight, who allows them to be supportive and encouraging to him, and who shares his wisdom with them. They never lose sight of the fact that he is the boss, but they aren’t afraid of his power. They feel confident approaching him or her with ideas and questions and know they’ll get a fair response. They identify with him and want him to succeed. Too bad there aren’t more ideal bosses, but at least we encounter those who have bits and pieces of an ideal boss.