Integrity, poise, humility. Would your workers ascribe these qualities to you? However you see your role as boss -- a parental figure, a coach, a general -- your job ultimately boils down to directing people and, in some sense, serving them.
"The minute you take a leadership position, you take away some of your own freedom," explains Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager. At growing companies, problems arise when a heavy workload prevents you from spending time with the very people who look to you for direction, mentorship, and reward. This often leads to what Blanchard calls "seagull management," wherein a time-crazed CEO flies in, dumps a whole bunch of information or criticism on his staff, then swoops back to the task at hand. Often the dump is no more than an e-mail, making matters worse. "You need to take the time to ask people how things are going," says Blanchard. And you need to keep in mind that "it's the quality of the visibility, not the quantity."
According to image maker Dan Klores, whose firm counts everyone from Conan O'Brien to Delta Air Lines among its clients, there are several ways to underscore that you mean well. Praise isn't proprietary, so be overly generous with it. Don't lose your temper. And when you're wrong (and you will be) apologize.
Finally, remember that communicating not just the day-to-day agenda, but the company's founding purpose, is key. Sounds simple, but once they get going, some of the best and brightest CEOs seldom offer up a rallying call. "I think a lot of times, people have to mind-read entrepreneurs about where they're headed," Blanchard says. "And they really need to get the message out, so everybody can serve that mission."