6 Hallmarks of a Great Boss

If you’re a small business owner, being a great boss is critical – it can make the difference between success and failure. Get it right and your employees will give you their best efforts in a company they love working for. However, get it wrong and your employees will lack the necessary motivation to work hard – causing your profits to dwindle, and your client base to switch to your competition.


While most business owners have good intentions, gaining the knowledge of what makes a great boss can be a challenge, and applying it in practice can be even harder.

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So, what does make a boss great? Below, we’ll look at six top characteristics and how you can add them to your own leadership skill set. Let’s have a look!

1. Great Bosses Are Approachable

This is one of the key characteristics that a good boss needs. For an employee, it’s really important to know that you have a sympathetic ear and are willing to listen when they bring issues to you. Even just saying “Hello” every morning and being concerned about their welfare are important managerial habits.

Being approachable is also a two-way street. If you communicate well with your employees, you’ll understand them better, and therefore have a better appreciation of their strengths and weaknesses. You can then leverage this knowledge to your company’s advantage down the line.

If you’re approachable, it also means that you’re likely to hear about problems early on, when it’s easy to resolve them. It’s imperative that your employees are not afraid to bring you news, whether it’s good or bad – for both your client relationships, and bottom line.

2. Great Bosses Give Feedback

To be a good boss, you also need to give praise (and constructive criticism) when it’s due. It’s very hard for an employee to do their best work in a vacuum, and people can easily become demotivated if their efforts are not acknowledged in any way.

This means that it’s important to give regular and timely appraisals to employees – not just a dull annual review, but recognition of small wins, good work, and successful contracts or projects.

It’s also important for employee morale that feedback is given in real time, not months later – which is why an annual review is a poor tool in terms of motivation. For optimal effect, any post-project wrap-up should only include your thoughts on team performance – any negative individual issues are better dealt with discreetly.

A few warm words when someone’s performed well, or an objective assessment of any issues, are vital ways to encourage your team. This will prove that you pay attention and appreciate what’s been done, and will also encourage staff to continue to do well (or even better!).

3. Great Bosses Own Up

If a great boss is to blame for something going wrong, they don’t attempt to shift responsibility to someone further down the line. While it may be tempting to blame others for your own misjudgements, this causes terrible resentment and sharply lowers your employee’s opinions of your management skills.

The best policy is to be brutally honest with yourself, which means making a clinical assessment of any issues that occur. You should also make a point of including your own failings in any analysis that you share with your employees.

This hallmark can be a tough one. By taking the blame, many bosses fear being seen as weak – but be in no doubt that your employees will know who’s truly at fault. If you shoulder any blame that you’re due, they’ll be far more receptive to any criticism that comes their way.

4. Great Bosses Join In

One of the most striking characteristics of a really great boss is that they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty. If the workload is overwhelming, a great boss should be helping, not sitting in an office watching from afar.

This means understanding when employees need assistance, and showing that you can provide it. It’s easy to underestimate the power of getting involved, particularly if you’re busy in other ways that employees might not see or appreciate.

However, the feeling that “we’re all in this together” helps to develop camaraderie and create real team spirit. This may mean putting your non-urgent tasks aside to pitch in – the rewards in terms of employee motivation will be immense.

5. Great Bosses Teach

For an employee, particularly a new starter, it’s important to understand how a boss actually wants work to be done. Every company has its own unique (and sometimes quirky) way of working, and employees need to be shown how to work with the systems and processes that you use.

Often, the only way employees find out that they’re not doing things correctly is by getting told off, which is very unfair. Analyzing your work processes in detail, and ensuring these are shared with employees, is critical – and will eliminate preventable mistakes and employee resentment.

It’s also important to ensure that employees can develop their skills, either by teaching them yourself if you have the expertise they need or by enabling them to gain knowledge through training. A knowledgeable, trained workforce is a real asset you can leverage to win contracts and maximize your profits.

6. Great Bosses Delegate

It can be tough for a small business owner to cede responsibility for running their business to others. Even when there’s simply too much work for one person to do, and you’ve employed people specifically to help, old habits die hard.

However, it’s very frustrating for employees if they are there to perform a particular role, and the boss always takes charge. An inability to delegate also means you have less time for the critical tasks you should be doing yourself, such as growing the business and steering it to success.

Learning to delegate is an important skill for a good boss, and knowing when to assign work to others depends on making good use of the skills outlined in the sections above. If you have a good relationship with your employees, and you know their strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be able to identify and develop confidence in the people you can delegate key tasks to.


There are many important characteristics that separate good bosses from bad ones. For small businesses owners, being a great boss is a vital part of winning contracts, maintaining good client relationships, making a profit, and keeping employees happy.

In this post, we’ve touched on some of the must-have habits of a great boss. Let’s recap:

  1. Make sure your employees know you’re approachable.
  2. Give feedback when it’s due, not just a dull annual appraisal.
  3. Own up if you’re at fault for a mistake.
  4. Help out if your employees are overwhelmed by work.
  5. Make sure your employees understand your processes, and help them gain skills.
  6. Don’t be afraid to delegate.

What other characteristics do you think makes a great boss, and do you have any of your own experiences? Let us know in the comments section below!

For all the best tips and tricks for being the best boss you can be, from the best business cards and ice breaker questions to the best resources for small business loans, head to the Hiveage blog!

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