What Qualities Do Employees Look for in a Great Boss

When you read about a job search, the first guides that you’ll probably encounter offer tips on polishing a résumé, writing a stronger cover letter, and nailing tricky interview questions. In other words, these articles focus on the prospective employee. But there’s someone else sitting on the other side of the table, too.

Understanding the qualities that make a great boss serves two important functions. Your company will attract more talented applicants if you demonstrate effective leadership. When it’s time to hire for a senior position, you’ll also have clear parameters to bring in a new boss who will succeed in the role.

How to Be a Great Boss

Clear Communication and Expectations

Managers balance the needs of the company against the needs and bandwidth of their department. Without clear communication skills, it’s only a matter of time before work assignments get missed or performed incorrectly.

Excellent communication encompasses the following:

  • Discussing company KPIs with superiors
  • Communicating goals to the department
  • Assigning priorities and responsibilities to appropriate employees or teams
  • Setting clear expectations for task quality and deadlines
  • Offering timely, specific feedback on projects

The best bosses communicate effectively whether they’re writing an email or holding a face-to-face meeting.

Confident Decision-Making

Employees may not have the necessary information, experience, or authority to make decisions that affect the course of a project. It’s the boss’s job to assess the options and make difficult decisions quickly. The popular estimate suggests that adults make roughly 35,000 decisions per day, so this is a top focus for bosses! Handling the mental workload of decision-making on behalf of both the company and their employees may often be the most important work the manager achieves.

After making a decision, the other critical aspect of leadership is getting the rest of the team on board to execute the plan. Any workplace is bound to face a certain amount of difference in opinion. The more employees a supervisor manages, the more opportunities there are for differing priorities and approaches. A great boss has the confidence not to be pulled between various sides and to rally the staff to work together to handle a challenge.

Recognition of Employee Contributions

We’re not even talking about tangible rewards (although those can be a motivating perk). One hallmark of a toxic work environment is a boss who takes credit for employees’ successes, but throws staff under the bus for failures (even if the boss was the one responsible for the mistake).

Fundamentally, this is about integrity. Most employees spend 40 hours each week working for someone who holds professional power over them. They need to be able to trust that their managers and supervisors use that power responsibly. Managers who take credit or promote favorite employees even when others did the work cause ugly divisions and resentment. A manager who gives credit where it’s due, accepts responsibility for their own mistakes, and gives employees a chance to save face and repair the damage when they slip up is likely to build a stronger, more loyal team.


Bosses aren’t perfect, because people aren’t perfect. No one likes to mess up at work, but one mistake doesn’t make someone incompetent. Often, what matters more is how you recover.

Being accountable as a boss means owning the fact that you’re ultimately responsible for your department. As with fair recognition, accountability ties in with integrity and commitment. Bad bosses may attempt to disguise or bury mistakes, or even lie to protect themselves. Great bosses not only face problems and work to resolve them, but also demonstrate their commitment to improve their own work habits.

Bosses don’t need to give speeches or posture to be inspiring. Leading by example, including modeling the right way to grow from a mistake, fosters trust between managers and employees.

Skilled at Mentorship

Finally, a competent boss manages the flow of work projects to meet company goals and keep employees from getting overwhelmed or stuck. But a great boss goes beyond that — understanding that employees are the most valuable resource the company has.

Most people don’t dream of a job where they clock in, check boxes, and collect a paycheck. They aspire to feel engaged, do meaningful work, and develop skills that let them grow in their careers. A great boss takes time to recognize employees’ talents and potential for growth, and to cultivate those abilities.

What qualities do you think make a great boss? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Jessica Sillers

Jessica Sillers writes about business, finance, and parenting for various companies and publications. Her favorite things include outings with her husband and daughter, Elena Ferrante novels, and perfecting the chocolate chip cookie. Read more of her work at www.dcfreelancewriter.com/portfolio.