One of my most popular blogs highlighted 19 ways to be a bad boss. So, I thought it would be equally as valuable to outline behaviors and traits of the best bosses. 

As fortune would have it, I discovered a leadership study conducted by Lead Well in partnership with Chicago-based Vantage Leadership Consulting that identifies five common traits of a best boss. 

Leads From a Higher Purpose 

The best bosses demonstrate a purpose beyond self-interest and self-profit and/or a purpose beyond the organization that is put into action on behalf of the individual. 

Activates Potential  

The best bosses observe values; they also acknowledge and take steps to activate the present capability and future potential of the individual. 

Grants Autonomy  

The best bosses impart knowledge, business acumen, big picture thinking, and establishes clear expectations to create an autonomous space for the individual to perform. 


Provides Pervasive Feedback 

The best bosses never miss an opportunity to provide constructive and reinforcing feedback. 

Encourages Risk Taking to Drive Continual Learning 

The best bosses fuel reasonable risk taking by allowing mistakes in an effort to promote continual learning, growth and development.

While each of these behaviors are powerful on their own, the study analysis noted that good managers naturally integrate each of these behaviors in a systematic way to engage, motivate, develop, and drive better performance from their direct reports. The study also uncovered the eight most common personality characteristics of the best bosses:

  • humble, unassuming, and authentic (This was also at the top of the list in Harvard University Professor and former Medtronic CEO Bill George’s book on leadership, True North) 
  • respectful 
  • bright and very smart 
  • positive, optimistic, “can do” attitude 
  • fair and ethical 
  • demonstrates a sense of humor and fun 
  • thoughtful and thorough 
  • competent.