I liked working for some of my bosses. But only one of them was a boss I genuinely loved to work for.
That's because the bosses we love to work for have not just great technical skills but also qualities that make an impact where it matters the most: in the hearts and minds of the people they lead.
If you are a boss people genuinely love to work for, here are eight traits that set you apart.
1. You believe the unbelievable.
Most people try to achieve the achievable; that's why most goals and targets are incremental rather than inconceivable.
The best bosses expect more, from others and, most important, from themselves. They show us how to get there. And they bring us along for what turns out to be an unbelievable ride.
2. You see opportunity when others see instability and uncertainty.
Unexpected problems, unforeseen roadblocks, major crises -- most bosses take down the sails, batten the hatches, and hope to wait out the storm.
A few see a crisis as an opportunity. They know it's extremely difficult to make major changes, even necessary ones, when things are going relatively smoothly.
They know reorganizing an entire sales team is accepted more easily when a major customer goes under. They know creating new sales channels is a lot easier when a major competitor enters the market. They know reorganizing manufacturing operations is a lot easier when the flow of supplies and components gets disrupted.
Bosses we love to work for see instability and uncertainty not as a barrier but as an enabler. They reorganize, reshape, and re-engineer to reassure, motivate, and inspire -- and in the process make the organization much stronger.
3. You wear your emotions on your sleeve.
Good bosses are professional.
Bosses we love to work for are professional too, and yet they're also openly human. They show sincere excitement when things go well. They show sincere appreciation for hard work and extra effort. They show sincere disappointment -- not in others, but in themselves. They celebrate, they empathize, they worry.
In short, they're people. And, unlike many bosses, they act as if they know it.
Professionalism is admirable. Professionalism combined with a healthy blend of humanity is inspiring.
4. You save your employees from the bus.
Terrible bosses throw employees under the bus.
Good bosses never throw employees under the bus.
The bosses we love to work for see the bus coming and pull their employees out of the way, often without the employee knowing about it until much later (if ever, because they never seek to take credit).
5. You've been there, done that … and you still do that.
Dues aren't paid. Dues get paid every day. The only real measure of value is the tangible contribution a person makes on a daily basis.
That's why no matter what they've accomplished in the past, the bosses we love to work for are never too good to roll up their sleeves, get dirty, and do the worst jobs. No job is ever too menial, no task ever too unskilled or boring.
Why? The best bosses never feel entitled, and that means their employees don't feel entitled -- except to the fruits of their labor.
6. You lead by permission, not authority.
A title confers the right to direct others, to make decisions, to organize and instruct and discipline.
The bosses we love to work for lead because their employees want them to lead. They're motivated and inspired by the person, not the title.
Through their words and actions, great bosses make employees feel they work with, not for, a boss. Many bosses don't even recognize there's a difference, but the best ones do.
7. You embrace a larger purpose.
A good boss works to achieve company goals.
A great boss also works to achieve company goals -- and achieves more than other bosses -- as well as to serve a larger purpose: to advance the careers of employees, to make a real difference in the community, to rescue struggling employees, to instill a sense of pride and self-worth in others. They aren't just remembered for nuts and bolts achievements but for helping others on a more personal or individual level.
The bosses we love to work for serve a larger purpose because they know business should also be personal.
8. You take real risks, not fake risks.
Many bosses -- like many people -- try to stand out in some superficial way. Maybe it's their clothes, or their interests, or their public displays of support for popular initiatives.
They do stand out, but for reasons of sizzle, not steak.
The best bosses stand out because they're willing to take an unpopular stand, to take an unpopular step, to accept the discomfort of not following the status quo, to take the risk of sailing uncharted waters.
They take real risks not for the sake of risk but for the sake of the reward they believe is possible. And by their example they inspire others to take a risk in order to achieve what they believe is possible.
The bosses we love to work for inspire others to achieve their dreams: by words, by actions, and most important, by example.