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How to be a Boss: Are You a Good Boss or a Bad Boss?

Sounds a little bit like the Wizard of Oz, we know. Similar to that classic story – what type of boss you are can determine if your people respond to you more like Munchkins or Monkey Soldiers. While we were writing this blog with our marketing partner, Preactive Marketing, we found something interesting while we researched this topic, and it made us raise an eyebrow. How to be a boss generates roughly 20 million monthly global hits – yet how to be a good boss generates only 33,000 monthly global hits.

A good boss makes his men realize they have more ability than they think they have so that they consistently do better work than they thought they could. – Charles Erwin Wilson

So why is that?

  • We realize it is probably because of many different factors – however we were intrigued that people are not more interested in how to be a good or even great boss. Is mediocrity taking over? Perhaps the reason is people are more focused on searching for the topic based more on the particular role than they are from the perspective of how to excel in that given role. Or maybe it’s because of the uptick in entrepreneurship. Regardless, building a successful business requires more than being a boss, it requires being a good boss – one who can create followership, build trust and maintain engagement.

So what makes a good boss or a bad boss?

High level – we’ll offer a few qualities that make a good boss and a bad boss.

Good Boss

Bad Boss

  • Vision
  • Tunnel vision
  • Transparency
  • Secrecy
  • Inspiration
  • Pessimism
  • Authenticity
  • Disingenuous
  • Honesty
  • Dishonesty
  • Trust
  • Mistrust
  • Socialized power
  • Personalized power
  • Values equality
  • Practices oppression
  • Recognition for a job well done
  • Ignoring a job well done
  • Helps other succeed
  • Only helps themselves succeed

So how do you become a good boss?

Short answer – develop and excel in the “good boss” qualities listed above – you can get started in 3 steps.

Feedback: The first step in being a good boss is feedback – soliciting input from those you lead regarding your actions and behaviors and how those behaviors positively and negatively impact them.

Awareness: The next step in being a good boss is having self awareness – taking the feedback on those actions and behaviors that may negatively impact those you lead and making a conscious effort to be aware of when they are occurring and why.

Action: The third step in being a good boss is action – take action to increase your positive behaviors and decrease those with a potential negative impact. Training, coaching, and mentoring are all great ways to increase and develop new skills that can have a positive impact on those you lead.

When the best leader’s work is done the people say, “We did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

Here’s hoping that most of you desire to be good – even great – bosses! So what qualities or strategies do you think make the difference between a boss, and a good boss?

About Scott Span, MSOD: is President of Tolero Solutions – an Organizational Improvement & Strategy firm. He helps clients to facilitate sustainable growth by developing people and organizations to be more effective, productive, and profitable.

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David Dejewski

Asking the question of ourselves is important. The person who stops asking has stopped growing.
I like the compare and contrast, Scott. It’s rarely as black and white, but it’s good to keep tabs on the items you listed and to recognize when we could improve in one area or another.
Good post!

Scott Span

Thanks, David. I agree, it’s mostly shades of gray…then again I’ve found most (not all) executives prefer black and white lists.

Jerry Schmidt

I think a good part of being a good boss is remembering what it was like at the other end of the food chain. I “learned” a lot of management skills by NOT doing what I saw others doing; namely, talking down to subordinates, abusing responsibility and in general just not caring about the people they were supervising. I supervise two incredible people here in my new job; I turn to them for their expertise (as I am still relatively new to the company culture) and they know that they can tell me if what I’m asking is not in line with how the company operates. It’s a structure that takes some getting used to (especially considering my last six years were in the front lines of the casino gaming industry) but I think to be a good manager, you have to want to work with good people and let them shine. I’m not going to take credit for what my people create; I will happily sign off on it and let them shine. If I have an issue with how something is being done, they will know about it. I won’t yell, I won’t belittle, I will ask what happened, why it happened and how do we keep it from happening again (note the use of the word “WE” in there; that’s quite purposeful).

In short, know that you are working with good people. If you aren’t, strive to make them good. In doing so, you improve yourself as well.

Sandra Lopez


I appreciate your two lists…as I read through each and pondered over them, to determine if I believed anything was missing. It seems to me your list covers it all…less is best.

I hope this is forwarded to many leaders as “food for thought” I would like to think some of the “bad” boss characteristics and practices exisit out there because they lack awarenss. If more folks would stop to do a self evaluation against the list…it could easily be a Good Start of a New Approach in time for a New FY!


Scott Span


Thanks for the comment. By all means, feel free to share with other leaders. You raise a good point per awareness. Awareness must exist before before beginning any self evaluation or leadership skills improvement (that’s not to say however, that it always does).