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7 Traits of Extraordinary Bosses

Great bosses understand what employees truly need and then provide it to them.
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Why do some bosses attract the best and most loyal employees, while others constantly drive them away? The answer lies in the basic traits that each boss brings to the job.

While average bosses are obsessed with their own goals, extraordinary bosses understand what employees need and then give those things to them.

With that in mind, here are the traits that employees want to see the most in the people for whom they work:

1. Simplicity

The business world is a complex collection of trade-offs. When confronted with these ambiguities, most people either become frozen into inaction or revert to doing whatever seems familiar. Employees need a boss to simplify these complexities, so that their daily activities and actions make sense and have more purpose.

2. Fairness

While it's undeniably true that "life is not fair," the desire for equitable treatment is so ingrained in the human psyche that even murderers protest when they feel they're being treated unfairly. Employees therefore want their boss to reward people in proportion to their contribution and to avoid anything that smacks of favoritism.

3. Humility

Most people strongly dislike arrogant individuals. When employees are forced to tolerate a know-it-all boss, that dislike quickly changes to contempt. On the other hand, employees respect bosses who are humble enough to admit they don't know everything and that they're sometimes (and even often) mistaken.

4. Transparency

A boss who disappears into his or her office, makes a decision, and then emerges with a set of commands leaves the impression that the decision is arbitrary. Even if they don't like a decision, employees far prefer to understand the workings of boss's mind and exactly why that decision was made.

5. Generosity

This is not about money. Money is what employees expect from their job, not from their boss. Employees want bosses to be generous with useful information, generous with their time, generous with their praise, and generous with the kind of coaching that helps employees learn how to do their jobs more quickly and effectively.

6. Patience

Employees secretly despise bosses who are so emotionally weak that they must foist their anger and frustration onto others in order to make themselves feel better. By contrast, employees deeply appreciate a boss who both remains calm in a crisis and is patient with each employee's learning curve.

7. Honesty

In a business world where everything seems up-in-the-air and uncertain, employees crave the security of knowing that a boss will do the right thing, both when dealing with employees and dealing with the outside world. Bosses who can inspire such trust inevitably attract employees who are themselves trustworthy.

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IMAGE: I love my boss mug
Last updated: Nov 28, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James was recently named a "Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Master" by Forbes, and his blog has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as Wired, Brandweek, and Men's Health, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Tao of Programming, Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite, and, most recently, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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