T Nation

What Makes a Good Boss/Manager/Leader?

What would you guys say makes a good boss, manager, leader, etc in a company environment (or in general)?

Our company is going through a multitude of changes and a few of my colleagues stated that I should apply for a management level position because they believe I have qualities that would help me prosper in a management/leadership role. So I’ve been thinking about it, but I’m not sure if I have those qualities.

I mean I work hard, I know how to adjust to situations that come up, I know when to be stern and when to back off. I look at it like I know how to treat people like people, but also when to push the right buttons.

For all of you that are in leadership positions (even own your own company), what traits would you say make a good leader? How did you get there?

For all you of that have great bosses, what makes them good?

I think not micromanaging and allowing people to do their jobs is huge. I also a big believer in emphasizing a person’s strengths.

Awesome idea for a thread, I really hope this takes off as I am very interested to hear peoples opinions of this as well.

As someone who in the past has been in an informal leadership roles and in the last 12 months have been placed in a formal leadership role, I am only just grasping the basics of being a good leader. I am also in the process of applying to become an Army Officer so I need to learn as much about this as I can.

Anyhow, a few things off the top of my head:

  • A good leader has the confidence to tell people that they arnt doing what is expected of them, but also have the tact to put it in a constructive way.
  • A good leader realises that there are more than one way to do a job and will listen to alternatives, but they will also pull the trigger and make a decision when it is needed.
  • A good leader knows he is not perfect but strives to be closer to perfect at every opportunity.
  • A good leader must have good communication skills. He listens to people around him and he conveys his messages clearly.

That’s all for now, I’ll be back later

Give lots of positive praise, even if someone hasn’t gone above and beyond. It’s the people in the back ground that go unnoticed that are often the lifeline of the company. Lots of people crave recognition for their work but are not the type to kiss arse and show you what they have done to get it, it’s your job to notice what people are doing and show appreciation for that. Happy staff that feel appreciated will always work harder.

don’t ask opinions and then do what you believe to be right, you don’t always know best, the guy who does the task day in day out knows best. A work force can sabotage your ideas if enough people disagree with them, yes your idea may work but without staff backing it won’t. If a workforce has a say in the decision, and they believe it’s come from them they will work harder to prove it works, even if the idea is not as good as yours. A great manager trusts their staff to make decisions on how their own day to day work should be done.

A workforce tends to work at around 70% effort, it’s your job to find what gets them to work harder and avoid what makes them work less. For some it’s money, for some it’s praise, for some it’s responsibility.

Deal with problems as swiftly as possible, small problems soon become big if left.

provide lots of possibilities for staff to raise concerns or ask questions.

Build genuine friendships with your staff.

No job is below you, if your staff see you going above and beyond to help them they will do it back when you need them. If they are under pressure offer assistance, ask them how you can help, get your hands dirty.

1 Like

Kinda a tangent but the best boss I ever had genuinely wanted to help me mature as a person and grow as a professional.

Also always commented on my squat booty… a bit weird tbh

1 Like

Sounds like a real healthy environment. I’m sure your boss wanted you to mature, did you by any chance start working there when you were 17 :wink:

This is kind of a tough topic for a forum. Hundreds of books have been written about it…

To me, in a nutshell, leadership is about being able to identify what a subordinate excels at and understanding how they can best accomplish their tasks. For example, X employee might prefer repetitive tasks they feel they’ve mastered (this is more common in older employees) and they may do their best work in the first couple of hours of the day so you prioritize based on the above to get the best results from employee X. Employee Y is young and prefers to try new things. Repetitive tasks are mundane to them and they do their best work in the afternoon. So, again, you divvy out work based on this. Obviously, employees have to do shit they don’t want to do and that’s just life. Both employees probably have to do things outside their comfort zone. Tough.

On top of that, a good leader will work to simultaneously develop skills that their employees may not have at all or are lacking. This can be by supporting external programs (grad school), seminars, on the job training, etc… Part of good leadership is pushing employees out of their comfort zone to make them better or to help them gain confidence in abilities they have but are too scared to say “hey, I can do that.”.

The above said, probably the most important aspect of leadership is understanding yourself and being able to lead/manage without your own personal shit getting in the way. A good boss doesn’t take their frustration out on their team even if their team fucked them over. A good boss leaves the fight they had with their spouse at home. A good boss understands everyone has a different personality and not everyone’s perspective is the same as their own.

Understanding your people, their personalities, their goals/aspirations, etc… is paramount to successful leadership.

1 Like

I feel the complete opposite to be honest. I want my boss to be friendly and know my name and work ethic, but I hate being friends with my uppers. It makes it harder to ask for raises, to be disciplined, etc. It might work for some people, but I feel like it complicates a lot of others.



A few books I have recently enjoyed on this topic:

Extreme Ownership - Jocko Willink

About taking responsibility for failure at any level.

Hard Things about Hard Things - Ben Horowitz

About Ben’s rise as founder of Netscape through selling and how he managed a startup that exploded, then hit the tech bubble in the late 90s

Principles - Ray Dalio

Idea of a meritocracy and how that led him to create the largest hedge fund.


And harder to leave if you get a better opportunity elsewhere. There’s certainly a fine line to tow with your boss/management vs coworkers.


So by having a great working relationship with your staff you are less likely to be asked to give them a pay rise and less likely to have your staff leave. Sounds like a winner from a managerial perspective!

I understand your points, it is a fine line. It has it’s benefits but also some drawbacks. Maybe friendship was not the best wording, a better wording would be taking a genuine interest in your staff.

Like a couple of others have said, this is a great thread. This is something my husband and I have been discussing in the past year as he was in the unfortunate position of having a poor manager. I’m the opposite in that I have an awesome boss.

#1- Recognize your employees abilities and trust them to do the job they are paid to do
#2- Understand what motivates each. I thrive on praise, stickers and a flexible schedule :slight_smile:
#3 -Be flexible. If you can’t bend, you’re likely to break. You also need the ability to understand those moments when you have to eat a bit of shit
#4 - Support your staff to them and with others. When ever I’ve been in a supervisory position I’ve felt it was more beneficial to me and my subordinates to showcase what they have accomplished rather than make it look like it was my accomplishment. Eg. Bob did this xyz and it helped us in this way. It’s a supervisors job to develop their subordinates rather than do their job. It reflects better on you that you’ve hired/developed a subordinate to accomplish goals. Even now, when I’m essentially my own division, I go out of my way to highlight accomplishments achieved as a team effort; with other employees or divisions. People who can work together and move forward with as little friction as possible are more valuable than rock stars who get up everyone’s crack.

1 Like

Knowing how to get the best out of people and also having outstanding conflict resolution skills are both really key IMO.

I don’t know. I’ve never actually had a good one.

My wife, on the other hand, just spent the last 6 mos. with a team and wrote the curriculum for a leadership development program for her company, and has just switched back to operations mgt. One day with her and the whole program she is assigned to quadrupled profitability and crushed all relevant metrics.

I think she’s like some kind of magical voodoo witch or something. Actually she just has an innate sense of fairness, great people skills, and razor sharp analytical skills. Unfortunately she doesn’t do internets.


I’ve had good bosses and bad bosses.

I’ve been a good boss and bad boss at various stages of my life.

And you can be a good or bad boss while being firm, downright mean and while having unreasonable expectations

And you can be a good or bad boss being nice, really friendly, and having medium expectations.

What you do need is competence in your job, knowledge of what your employee’s job is, and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, a lack of insecurity in knowing you know your job and not being threatened by subordinates.

I was a poor boss as a young law firm partner because – even though I was a top grad from a top school, a hard worker, and knew my stuff – I was threatened by the new kids who were also top grads, hard workers, and who knew their stuff (in an new kid sort of way).

I’m not talking about bravado – false courage, false fronts.

I mean really secure in knowing you know what is going on. When a boss is secure, he (or she) helps subordinates succeed

I’m gruff, borderline autistic, bearded, tall, and generally not one for small talk. I have been told by many people they are (or someone else is) terrified of me. I don’t socialize with the other lawyers and tend to hang out (when there are mandatory social events) with long time staff members.

I have also been told, by many of the same people, that they learned how to be a lawyer from me and really like me.

Clear boundaries and consequences. Fairness and consistency enforcing policy/rules.
In my adult life I’ve been supervised by many people and in all honesty would consider only one of them a leader. Most supervisors I’ve worked under think they are leaders because they’ve jockied for a position that has put them in a position of authority.
If you’re considering applying for the position ask yourself if you’re willing to fire your best workplace friend if they’re fucking up. If your answer is no than don’t apply because nobody else wants you in that position.