(Of course, I've also had some not-so-great bosses. You probably have too.)
There are certain things almost anyone can adopt to become a better boss. It all starts with a series of daily habits--none of which is especially difficult to practice, if you put your mind to it.
Here are 27 simple but crucial things the best bosses do every day.
1. They display their sense of humor.
No, they don't have to tell jokes, but great bosses display their appreciation of humor. It's important, because it enables them to maintain their bearing in tough situations. H.G. Wells put it best: "The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow."
2. They share their vision.
Of course, this presupposes that they actually have a vision (see No. 20). Sharing the vision means making it accessible, relatable, and clear to the members of their teams. Otherwise, how do employees know what they're working toward?
3. They demonstrate that the organization is bigger than one person.
Nobody wants to work for someone who thinks the organization is all about the boss. Great bosses demonstrate that they value other people and the organization as much as themselves. Related: Someday the boss will move on. He needs a succession plan.
4. They understand people have outside lives.
Good bosses today empathize when employees have legitimate outside commitments: child care, dentist appointments, vacations, etc. They expect dedication to work, but they also understand and expect dedication to other important aspects of life.
5. They create more leaders.
Good leaders can gather lots of followers, but truly great leaders demonstrate their eagerness to help other people become even better leaders. On any given day, this can mean showing trust, faith, and excitement in others' development.
6. They think hard about hiring decisions.
Great leaders and bosses learn to delegate. Doing that comfortably means recruiting true superstars whom you feel great about delegating to. As a high-ranking government official once told me, "Personnel is even more important than policy."
7. They share credit.
Great bosses understand that everyone needs to hear that his or her contributions are valued and appreciated, and they seek out opportunities to give credit.
8. They end bad employment decisions cleanly.
A bad hiring decision is at least partly the boss's fault. So, great bosses remedy their mistakes, by terminating bad employment decisions fairly, ethically, and legally.
9. They accept blame.
Failure isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as people learn from it and try other things in its wake. Still, it's important for a leader to accept that the failure itself usually has to fall on his or her shoulders.
10. They celebrate when things go well.
Nobody wants to work at a place where the only reward for good work is more work. Good bosses avoid being like this guy (and not just because he's dead).
11. They make decisions.
Hard decisions are often the best decisions; they're the things people need decided most desperately. (My colleague Justin Bariso recently spotted an excellent implementation of decision making that he notes in an article of his about Jeff Bezos: "disagree and commit.")
12. They know what they're talking about.
Ideally, a boss should have subject matter experts and subordinate leaders who are more knowledgeable about their fields than he or she is. But the boss has to have enough familiarity and knowledge to lead.
13. They demonstrate confidence.
Confidence without competence is a recipe for disaster, but bosses who want to lead have to demonstrate to their team that they believe in themselves, their team, and their mission.
14. They respect other people's time.
Largely, this means being on time. If you can't track time yourself, set the time on your smartphone. But also: speeches and meetings. Schedule them, yes--but only as necessary.
15. They know when to push harder.
Sometimes the most motivating words a boss can say to an employee are a bit critical: "I know you can do better."
16. They know when to back off.
That said, while asking for people to rise to the occasion can be effective, great bosses have the emotional intelligence to understand when they've pushed too far and to adjust.
17. They set priorities, and they share them.
If everything is a priority, nothing is. So great bosses make clear what they think is most important. Ideally, they adhere to the rule of three--three being the optimal number of things most people can devote attention to at any one time.
18. They share information.
Insecure bosses hold onto information like a commodity, parceling it out carefully to make them feel powerful. True, there are times when it's necessary to hold information closely for strategic reasons--but great bosses make transparency their default setting.
19. They're polite--or at least personable.
Being polite costs nothing, generates good feelings, and increases comity. Don't confuse politeness with a lack of toughness, however; they can go hand in hand. The opposite of politeness is rudeness (not weakness).
20. They think big enough.
Great bosses recognize that they're asking people to spend at least a third of their waking hours working on their vision. So they make sure it's a big and worthy enough vision.
21. They act ethically and set high standards.
Employees often take the boss's lead. So while ethics means different things to different people, know that whatever example you set, those working for you will likely follow it.
22. They ask intelligent questions.
Interestingly, the smartest question is sometimes the basic one that people are afraid to ask because they think it will reveal a lack of knowledge or understanding. (Related: They admit when they don't know.)
23. They hear people out.
A great boss recognizes that even though he or she needs to project confidence, that doesn't mean he or she has to know everything. Boss, you hired your team for a reason. You make the final call, but you owe it to yourself to listen to them.
24. They lead by example.
Great bosses work hard and demonstrate that they value their team's work. They also lead by example in other ways: for example, treating customers well, and making efficiency a priority. Whatever the boss does, he or she is asking everyone else to act the same way.
25. They care for themselves.
Speaking of leading by example: Great bosses make it clear that they value their health, their families, their faith (whatever that faith is), and their other priorities. It's harder for anyone else to act that way if the boss doesn't model it.
26. Think before they speak.
Great bosses realize that there's no such thing as an innocuous remark when you're in charge. There is power in being casual and informal, and you should be friendly and approachable--but don't blunder into saying things you don't mean by not thinking about your words.
27. They encourage others' development.
Great bosses encourage education, training, exploration, and networking. Fearful bosses worry instead that their best employees will outshine them (or move elsewhere). If you hold up your end of the deal as a boss, chances are you'll get a better and more committed employee.
Got other great habits of exceptional bosses? Let us know in the comments.