What makes for a good boss? Many would say that the good ones motivate and inspire. They are pleasant to work with and encourage everyone to do their best. They try to create environments that make work fun. Of course, a good boss also has to be tough and provide constructive feedback when needed and make difficult business choices.

It's this perfect balance that makes the best leaders, according to a study in the Harvard Business Review. The researchers gathered information from more than 160,000 employees and 30,000 business leaders from companies around the world. They found that 68 percent felt that bosses who were both tough and nice were the most effective.

In comparison, only 9 percent thought tough bosses were the best, and 6.7 percent endorsed nice bosses. No surprise, the study also found that people who worked for bad bosses were the unhappiest and those who praised their bosses were more committed to the company.

So how do your strike this harmony between tough and nice? It's about implementing the right behaviors and support systems into the workplace. These promote the characteristics people want in a good boss, while helping to avoid common traits of bad bosses, like lack of feedback, support, and inclusiveness.

Here are five strategies that can help you be the boss everyone wants:

1. Praise the right way.

When people don't get regular recognition and praise, they wonder why they should care about their work or the business. Yet, when they receive positive feedback from their boss, they are happier, more productive, and more committed. Yet, you don't want to toss around praise with no purpose, which can sound trite. Instead, make it specific and emphasize why you are giving it.

I try to do this in several ways. For instance, in a meeting, I recognize one of my team members who went the extra mile on a project; or send a personal thank you note for a job well done; or celebrate something specific a person has done and show them how it helps the company.

2. Promote growth.

People don't want to stay in the same position forever. Many leaders try to hold people in their current jobs because they don't want to replace them. However, if someone wants to grow, you can't hold them back. Instead, help them move forward. Offer workshops, classes, extra training, and mentoring programs to help people along in their career path. Investing in your team shows you care about their future. In return, they are likely to stay committed to your business's future.

3. Look out for your team.

If you want devotion and commitment, you need to show you have your employees' back. This can mean gestures like adding work-from-home days, wellness days so they can focus on their physical and mental health, and flex time to deal with family emergencies. I have learned that trying to make everyone work on my hours doesn't always create happiness. Instead, I have set up the right technology, so people can work when it's convenient for them. Of course, they have deadlines to meet, but it's their job, rather than mine, to manage their time appropriately.

4. Encourage open environments.

People are suspicious of closed door workplaces where they feel they cannot express their views. Encourage an environment that welcomes frank discussions and feedback.

For example, host a monthly staff lunch where everyone can share comments and concerns, or have a different person lead meetings where he or she sets the agenda about issues to discuss.

For my remote business, I use collaboration tools, such as Slack for daily communication, and conduct team video conferences through Zoom. It offers the same personal connection and open door environment as if we were in the same office.

5. Lead by example.

People respect bosses who practice what they preach. And it's not just about working longer hours in hope that it rubs off on others. Instead, share with your team something that has made you a better worker and person.

Or better yet, join them in a workshop designed to improve business skills like time management, leadership, and communication. I share my calendar with my team, so they see that I block out time for family, yoga, and working out. This encourages them to do the same.

The best bosses know how to inspire and be supportive without coming off as weak or mean spirited. It can be a fine line to walk, but when you adopt the right behaviors and introduce the proper support tools into the workplace, you can be the best of both worlds: a boss who everyone likes and respects.

Published on: Apr 18, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.