Fittingly, the subject of bosses came up during our end of summer Labor Day barbeque, and what struck those of us gathered was how few good leaders we had worked for, back in the days when we were employed by someone else.

So, a bunch of us--entrepreneurs and people who run micro-businesses--tried to come up with a list of what want a boss to do, the very same behavior we try to live up to as the person in charge. Here's our list.

1. Lead by example.

The consensus? It doesn't matter what you say; it matters what you do. Employees spend an inordinate amount of time watching what the boss does, and those actions matter far more than his words. As one of the people at the barbeque put it, "it is hard to expect employees to be honest if the boss is a crook."

2. Communicate. Communicate and communicate some more.

Yes, of course, "overcommunicate" is now a mantra of leadership. But we found people simply don't do enough of it, either because they are busy or expect people to "get it" if it has been said a couple of times.

3. Have a sense of humor.

This one is tricky because what one person finds funny (Katt Williams, Don Rickles) another person will not. The best course here (as well as the safest) is the ability laugh at yourself.

4. Admit failure.

"I was wrong" may be the most powerful three words a leader can say.

5. You are never off-duty.

In part, this is related to the first point. Seeing the boss drunk, even if it is at an employee's beach party-themed wedding on a Saturday night, is never a good thing. But it also extends to the fact that employees want to know that they can reach you after hours.

6. Be fair.

It turns out the Golden Rule is the answer to an awful lot of questions. So don't play favorites and don't keep someone in the doghouse longer than absolutely necessary.

7. Don't gossip.

I was surprised by this one. I would have thought it was included in "How to Be a Leader 101,"³ but apparently it isn't. A bunch of people told detailed stories about what a boss had told them about a fellow employee.

That's our list. What's yours?

Published on: Oct 31, 2014
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