Bosses We have Loved

Lessons in Leadership 

The difference between bosses we love and bosses we hate is leadership. Think back over your leadershipcareer and remember those managers who you most admired. What can be learned from them and how can it make us better leaders? What were the traits or attributes we can identify? Let’s consider the five attributes listed below as a starting point. Are there others?

 The Starting Five Attributes of  Good Leadership 

1. Leadship By Permission, Not Authority

2. Trustworthy

3. Empathetic

4. Openly Human

5. Encourage Risk Taking

Leadership By Permission, Not Authority 

Being assigned to head any organization by the Board of Directors or upper management does not make one the automatic leader. Hopefully, the higher authorities have picked a leader, but that is not always the case. A manager may have been granted the right by the organization to hire, fire, promote, give raises and orders, but not the right as the leader.

As a young engineer, on several occasions I was made the leader of a group of people who were engineering-teammuch my senior and more experienced technically. I had to assign them work, review their progress, perform annual performance reviews, and decide on any salary adjustments. Many in the group were old enough to be my father. I quickly learned to pay them the respect they deserved and not micromanage their efforts. There were certain administrative parts of their jobs, such as coordinating with other departments and developing schedules, in which they needed my help. Over time, I moved from the leader by authority to the leader by permission.


Have you ever worked for a person with whom trust was difficult? Promises that often never came to fruition. There were questions that went unanswered. There was always the suspicion of a hidden agenda. These are a few of the signs of a boss who is perceived as being untrustworthy. Most team members consider trust to be one of the top attributes in a leader.

Leading by example is one of the best ways to build trust. I once heard of a new company president who was faced with the need to reduce staff because of an economic downturn. He brought his managers together and explained the difficulty of the situation and then executed a 10% reduction in staff. The next morning he arrived at the office in his new Porsche and his credibility went out the window. If you’re going to lead by example, you must talk the talk and walk the walk.


In considering this attribute, first let’s differentiate between empathy and sympathy.

Webster defines sympathy as, an affinity, association, or relationship between persons or things wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the others. A boss may feel sorry for a person because of their situation at home or even at work. That’s sympathy. But good employees don’t seek sympathy from their boss. Most bosses who become sympathetic run the risk of becoming emotionally involved and overly preferential to a particular individual. This might alienate others in the work group.

On the other hand Webster defines empathy as, the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and  The difference here is that the empathic person takes others into account when making plans and giving direction. There is no emotional connection, only consideration for feelings, thoughts and experiences of others in planning and implementation.

Like a good sports coach, a good boss has to take into consideration his players. The players will only accomplish a project if it is within their individual self-interest and understanding. No project or program, no matter how important or well-conceived, will be successfully executed without the efforts of all the players.

 Openly Human

Good leaders do not place themselves on a self-important stratum which puts them high above the others on the team. They know how to apologize when they make a mistake. They know how to use self-deprecating humor to defuse a difficult situation. They have an open-door policy. They will socialize with team members during working hour and after hours.

No one wants to bring the king bad news. This openly human attribute makes them open to two-way communication. There is no reluctance by team members to make them aware of issues before they become problems.  Team members will freely share ideas without feeling that it may be inappropriate.  Although the leader may not be your best friend, they are perceived in a friendlier and open manner.

Encourage Risk Takers 

Although we may have studied business for many years in the most prestigious schools, most learning occurs by doing. Sometime it leads to success and sometimes it leads to failure. But each time we learn. There is no progress without taking calculated risks. If risk taking is not encouraged, learning is slowed and personal growth comes to a halt.

Good Leaders encourage risk taking and recognize that there will be failure. They stay close enough to the situation to allow it not to get out of control. They don’t brow-beat failure. Whether it turns out successful or unsuccessful, they always ask what was learned. They don’t brow-beat failure.

Good bosses are good leaders. Their teams achieve continuous success. If you are interested in accessing your current leadership role  and strengthening your attributes, email: