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What Makes a Boss Good?

What makes a boss good? Jim Finkelstein believes five qualities contribute.

“Not all bosses are created equal,” Jim Finkelstein says, “and there are certain trends that make for better bosses.  Forty years of combined experience – one of us with 35 as a professional management consultant and the other with five as a fresh and reflective worker – have uncovered prime examples.” 

He explores them, and how they create a collaborative and productive workplace, in his new book, Fuse: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace.

Finkelstein is president and CEO of FutureSense Inc. (, a management advisory and consulting firm where he works with his son, Matt.

Here are his five attributes. (They aren’t mutually exclusive):

1)    The Listener – a boss who will listen to and appreciates different points of view.  This boss hears and honors his or her employees’ thoughts and considerations respectfully but with a caveat being the boss may or may not put these ideas into action.    The Listener listens to the employees because they were hired for a reason.  As such, they trust their employees and value their input.  Sometimes, they are even dependent upon it.  The Listener is a good boss because he or she has insight beyond his or her own experience and vision – insight that is influenced by many angles, and because since their employees are allowed to voice their own opinions and ideas, they are inspired and engaged.

2)    The Empowerer – a boss that lets employees run their own show and lets them learn by making some mistakes.  To a degree of trust and support, this boss cultivates leadership in his or her team.  Working together, they identify tasks and create a plan, but let the employees decide the nuts and bolts of how it actually gets done.  The Empowerer doesn’t delegate aimlessly, creating a sense of subordination in the team, but rather engages the employees from the ground up in a focused manner.  Employees are inspired to take on leadership roles and collaborate both with their boss and with others.  The Empowerer is a good boss because he or she can simultaneously ignite productivity, personal development and satisfaction among the employees. 

3)    The Mentor – a boss that teaches, coaches and guides.  This boss doesn’t necessarily need to be older, but a tad wiser or simply just willing to share.  He or she seeks to understand the employees’ experiences and identify which ones need or want mentoring.  The relationship with the employees is constructive, meaning both criticism and praise are offered with the intentions of nurturing the employees’ sets of skills.  An offer to mentor is either explicitly offered or subtly developed over time.  The goal is both in current interest and looking toward the future, always geared to enhance the employees’ skills.  The Mentor is a good boss because he or she ensures a future for the employee and the company while inspiring immediate productivity and engagement.

4)    The Cool Dude (or Dudette) – a boss that has fun and lets their employees have fun.  This boss maintains a certain aura of authority while creating a likeable and lively atmosphere.  He or she lets the employees enjoy their time at work and find time for small diversions, within the confines that the job still gets done…and done well.  At those instances, this boss rewards the employees with time off or special workplace events within the realm of a respectable workplace culture.  The Cool Dude or Dudette is a good boss because he or she understands that all employees are people, that all people need some kind of fun, and that happy employees are healthy, productive, and engaged.  

5)    The Creator – a boss who inspires invention and creativity.  This boss pushes the limits of his or her employees to ignite innovation.  He or she challenges intellect and questions the status quo, so that new products and ideas are developed from within.  The Creator embodies the spirit of imagination and is never overly demanding.  Creativity and invention come from a unique mindset, so this boss correctly identifies those on the team who are keen to this way of thinking.  As such, the Creator is a good boss because he or she is motivational and collaborative.

“These five bosses, or rather their respective characteristics,” Finkelstein says, “exemplify what makes for healthy leadership within organizations.  Many bosses may embody many or all of these characteristics.” 

The best bosses are able to reflect upon their own natural inclinations and experiences, leveraging their assets and developing areas of weakness.  Common trends among these five good bosses make for a great boss as well – collaborative, communicative, engaging and inspirational. 

“The new co-generational world is crying out for leaders – of all ages and generations – and hopefully many of us will realize that great leaders can exist in the smallest, biggest, nearest and furthest of places. “

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