Your relationship with your boss is key to your sense of fit in your job. It’s difficult to relish your role if you don’t feel comfortable with the person to whom you report. That relationship is a core part of how you feel about the work you perform and the professional culture in which you perform it.
Leadership matters, and those who excel at steering their teams have tangible results to show for their prowess. Forbes contributor Meghan M. Boro writes: “What drives retention? Leaders: the flesh and blood humans in charge. From managers to CEOs, the boss has a huge impact on retention. For all the bells and whistles we create to drive engagement and ensure retention, it won’t mean a thing if an organization’s badly led.”
A Gallup study of more than 7,000 Americans found that “one in two had left their job to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.” Clearly, having a bad boss can be detrimental; by the same token, having a great boss can be a tremendous opportunity.
Here’s how to recognize a truly standout leader, and maximize the opportunity that working for him or her presents.
The Qualities of a Great Boss
Leadership styles can vary, but when it comes to the core values that most employees seek in their leaders, those look largely the same.
Jay Messner, Managing Partner with Alta Impact, a training and consulting service focused on leadership development and organizational effectiveness, explains: “I often take leadership teams through an exercise where they describe the characteristics of the leader they would love to follow. Every group comes up with the same words: integrity, decisiveness, competency, honesty, intelligence, visionary, empowering and caring. The consistency of these responses indicates that neurologically and emotionally, we humans desire the same fundamental qualities in our leaders.”
Messner notes that the sum of these characteristics is “the single most powerful quality in great leadership: trust.”
What a Great Boss Seeds
In any great relationship, you don’t just like the person — you like yourself when you’re with him or her. This is also true of a great boss. A true leader understands how to bring out the best in each member of the team. It’s a thrill to work on that team because there’s room to learn, grow and make the mistakes that lead to self-discovery and reinvention.
Messner notes: “Under the leadership of a great boss, people develop more quickly. By our definition, a great boss is someone who challenges others to be great, and allows them the space to learn from their mistakes along the way.”
A true leader understands how to foster growth on his or her team, and that’s an important professional opportunity. Messner explains: “great bosses create high performers who then get to share in the boss’s reputation for getting things done. It’s a ton of fun to be on a winning team.”
Maximize the Opportunity by Inviting Challenges
Great bosses use their resources strategically. Their team’s skill pool is among those resources. A stellar leader won’t just sit on those resources — he or she will grow them. A great boss is going to help you advance your skills because that best serves the team and the institution. It’s also an excellent opportunity for you.
Messner advises that if you have a great boss, embrace the opportunity by inviting challenges. He explains: “There is nothing more valuable professionally than an environment where you are being both vigorously challenged and unconditionally supported.”
When you recognize that your boss is a stellar leader, invoke his or her awareness and vision to help shape your trajectory.
Messner advises: “I always recommend individuals identify their personal vision and goals. Vision in this sense is bigger than just career planning, it’s life planning. When you have a great boss who truly wants the best for you, it is highly effective to share your vision and goals proactively with your boss to engage them in helping you succeed.”
Great bosses want you to be happy — they are rooting for your success. They are also seasoned vets in your industry, so cueing them into your vision and your plans is a sound strategy.
Messner reflects: “As a personally transformed and hopefully great boss, I love helping my people be successful in all spheres of life. It’s incredibly rewarding for me and their longevity with my organization grows immensely.”
Great bosses aren’t ego-driven. They recognize that they are works-in-progress just like their team members. Messner points out that they need your feedback to achieve growth too. He writes, “A really great, next-level boss will seek accountability and feedback from their team. If you are offered this chance, lean into it with all you have. It will be a fantastic opportunity to develop your communication and coaching skills at a level well outside your experience. The discomfort will be confirmation that you are growing fast.”
The experience you get from having a great boss can yield more than just a happy fit in your current role. You can stand to learn a lot about yourself, your abilities and your future. So make sure to maximize your opportunities at hand, and then pay it forward when you find yourself in a leadership role.