I remember it like it was yesterday. Fourteen years ago, a former CEO I reported to stuck this little dagger into me: "Marcel, I hate to say it, but you're just not a culture fit for this company."

Ouch. But looking back, she was absolutely right. A few months after I left, I reflected back on my experiences under her leadership in comparison to the executive boss that came after her. This was a case of two polar-opposite leaders as different as the cultures they helped create.

The first boss's style led to a fear-based pressure cooker that emotionally disengaged employees from doing and being their best. The second boss, where I clearly fit with the culture, led by serving the needs of employees to do and be their best.

Here are 10 contrasting styles and habits I vividly recount from each:

First Boss (Far from Cool)

  • Did not value employees as human beings but only saw them as functions.
  • Did not support employees with the tools, resources, and things they needed to succeed on the job.
  • Showed little interest in their personal lives, their aspirations and their interests.
  • Employees did not know the meaning and purpose of their work, and how their work mattered to their customers. The culture was set up for doing the work you were hired to do and collecting a paycheck with a smile.
  • Because feedback was virtually non-existent, employees had no means of measuring how well they were doing on a given day or in a given week to gauge their progress.
  • She fostered a "sink or swim" atmosphere where newer employees were left to their own devices and no support, setting them up for failure early on.
  • She communicated through passive-aggressive means, often using other people to deliver the message.
  • She often made snap judgments and assumptions without looking into all sides of an issue, or taking in various perspectives and sound opinions before making a decision.
  • She spun a political web that created silos and stimulated opposing agendas between people and departments.
  • She never asked, "how are you doing?"

Second Boss (Cool as a Cucumber)

  • He gave us a sense of belonging. We felt part of the team.
  • He gave us purpose and meaning. We understood why and how our work mattered.
  • He gave us regular feedback and recognition of our performance.
  • He gave us opportunities for professional development and growth. He stretched us with work assignments that expanded our knowledge and sharpened our skills. The culture itself that he fostered had a "learning spirit."
  • He allowed for our voices to be heard. We felt like our ideas and suggestions mattered, which led to a positive employee experience.
  • He gave us flexibility in our work schedule for us to meet family/personal responsibilities.
  • He allowed us the freedom and opportunity to decide, participate in, and determine how work was best accomplished.
  • He operated with an open-door policy, which I remember him saying was a "keystone for good company communication."
  • He spent time mentoring us, sometimes daily, to ensure that we were being equipped to perform at the highest level.
  • He was transparent, shared information, and let every employee know absolutely everything about him and the business.

What's your example of a cool boss? Share in the comments or on Twitter @MarcelSchwantes