6 Signs That You Have A Great Boss

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Do you have a great boss? I don’t mean one who just buys you a latte in the morning. I mean a boss who truly delivers the environment, guidance and support YOU need to excel in your job. Here’s how to find out.

As Jim Collins said in his seminal book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, ‘Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline‘, and this is never more true when applied to being a manager.

Sadly, I’ve met a number of managers in my career that think their greatness is a matter of having ‘Manager’ or ‘Head of’ in their job title. These chumps have throw their weight around without, seemingly, making good decisions or creating a work environment that lets their employees flourish. Know of any managers like this yourself?

Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline” – Jim Collins

Thankfully, I have met a few really great managers who I am proud to have called my boss. I interviewed a number of experienced professionals, and we came up with the following traits that epitomized a great boss.

  1. Great bosses pay people what they’re worth – not what they think they can pay as a minimum. Keeping the wage bill down is a constant pressure for managers, but it has to be balanced by getting the job done effectively and efficiently. This means paying a fair wage for great people. Great bosses know that penny-pinching regularly results in under-performance.
  2. Great bosses tell it how it is – good news or bad, a great boss is straight with employees. A good working relationship between boss and employee requires trust and communication, and this is a two-way street. Bosses expect bad news to be shared by their employees, so it should work the other way around too. It takes discipline and courage for a manager to share bad news with employees, just as it does the other way around.
  3. Great bosses give credit where credit is due – sharing praise is something great bosses do, and they never take credit for the productivity of others. However, great bosses take the heat for their employees failings, often facing criticism themselves. I once had a manager who did quite the opposite of this, and it was the worst job I have ever suffered.
  4. Great bosses nurture employees strengths – they don’t pick away at their weaknesses! Everybody has strengths and weaknesses (read more about this in the free eBook ‘The 10 Habits of Highly Effective Professionals‘ – get yours by subscribing to my newsletter!) Great managers know that by nurturing employees strengths is the most positive approach to performance management and professional development. And when the strengths of a whole team are invested in, the resulting productivity is always far superior than if they were to try to paper of the cracks of weakness.
  5. Great bosses inspire and share their experiences – a great boss is a mentor that actively shares personal insight and experiences so that employees can learn from real cases. A carefully selected anecdote can be very inspiring. A great boss is disciplined enough to allocate time in their diaries to share their knowledge.
  6. Great bosses delegate, not abdicate – some managers pass on work they don’t want to do themselves without retaining their accountability. This is abdication! Great bosses delegate responsibility for an outcome and share the accountability with the employee, taking joint-ownership of ensuring the outcome is delivered. Delegation requires consideration; it’s not simply a matter of saying what work needs to be done – delegation involves agreeing a number of measures with the employee – stating success criteria, establishing the modus operandi (how the outcome should be achieved), ensuring that the necessary resources are available to the delegate, and clarifying the procedure if exceptions occur.

How does your boss compare? And if you’re a boss, how do YOU compare?


I should also add a seventh: Great bosses say thanks. Thank You is one of the most powerful phrases a boss can say. And not enough bosses do it regularly enough. Which is odd as it costs nothing to say yet it has such a profound effect. In Dan Pink’s post, A boss who says thanks, there is a nice example where a President says Thank You to his organization.

Maybe you have a better definition of a ‘great manager’? If so, please do share it by expressing an opinion below.

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