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There was one I would say was a good boss. And I've worked for 19 companies in my life (so far). Many of the others weren't bad, exactly - just not good. And some really were bad. The good one was the boss of a small financial software company. I used to get quite annoyed with him - he was always asking questions and making suggestions, although he never, ever got annoyed with me. If I said I was busy, he would go away. He was a mathematician, not a programmer per se, so many of his suggestions were not immediately practicable, and needed adapting for an era when the mighty 486 was the best processor we could afford ... But he was good at getting you to think, and a genuinely kind man, with a wicked sense of humour, if a little eccentric - the last I heard he had bought a catamaran and sailed off in the general direction of Australia.

Peter Smith

Can't say I've ever had a boss that I've been thrilled to be bossed around by. In that regard, I'd disagree with the premise of the questions, which seem to suggest that bosses are necessary or desirable.

Maybe the better questions are:

1. Who are the best bosses you've _never_ had?


2. How do we build a company/society without bosses?

Alexandra Levit

Hi Bob,

The best boss I ever had had the courage to be straight with me. She said, in a helpful way, that if I wanted to become a vice president I had to start dressing and acting like one. She gave me books to read and suggestions on leadership development classes to take. She praised me for my good work, but always encouraged me to step it up.

Even good employees can always improve, and a great manager knows how to motivate without demoralizing a person.

Kind Regards,

Alexandra Levit
Business and Workplace Author and Speaker

Tom Short

My best boss was brilliant: he knew what he didn't know, and he wasn't at all hesitant to surround himself with others whose competencies complemented his own. He was great at teaching us his art by rolling up his sleeves and working side by side with us on a project, and taking on the tougher parts of it when needed. He was decisive, too, and never showed any doubt when faced with a difficult decision - he just made it and moved on.

This boss also was a fun guy to go out with after work. A lot of work was on the road and he was always ready to hit the bar after dinner, have a nightcap with me, and talk about anything that was on my mind. He was a true leader, humble, and willing to laugh at himself.

Bob Bennett

The best boss I ever had was, Major Melvin R. Evans. He was the platoon leader then company commander of our Army Aviation unit in Vietnam. The characteristic that makes him stand out was his caring. I was the typical rebellious 19-year old that chafed against all authority, but I knew that he cared about me. Even when I screwed up and was busted down in rank, he kindly let me know that I could do better and he was there to help me to do so. If he came to my door today and asked me to help him, I wouldn't even ask what the task was, I just go.


The best bosses:
1)Dare to make decisions
2)Invest time to understand difficulties
3)Are equipped to offer advice
4)Know when to escalate a problem if it requires intervention from higher authority
5)Keep employees informed - management directions, job requirements

They made me want to do better.

Bret Simmons

I've been blogging on this recently, Bob. The bosses I've written about so far are not corporate big dogs. All so far have been lower lever managers. But they were exceptional leaders. All were trustworthy, authentic, purposeful, and helpful. Here is the link to the latest leader I wrote about

Wayne Tarken

The best boss I ever had is also the one that fired me when it was time to go.

He cared about my success. Made me feel valuable. Provided the resources I needed. Allowed me to develop professionally. Took an interest in my family. Went to bat for me.

Told me when I had outgrown the company/job


The best boss I ever had was a very good story-teller. Sometimes it was inwards stories which were slanted or skewed to get something better out of us. Or it was outward messaging to the rest of the company, still slanted and skewed to protect us and get us the leeway we needed. I don't know whether or not that qualifies as BS. But he always tried to do right by us, and he put his neck out there for us. Ultimately he got fired for doing the right thing and sticking to his guns. Six months later three more team members were fired. Another has since left as well. It sure taught me to not take any crap in the workplace.


Hi Professor Sutton,

I can generalize over both good and bad bosses I've had as follows. The ideal boss creates a social contract that goes like this:

"Hi employee, you and I are both going to tackle goal/outcome X. Your job is to tackle all the things you have control over. My job is to tackle all the things you don't have control over but that influence us accomplishing goal/outcome X. I will evaluate your success by measure Y. Are you ok with this, if not, tell me your suggestion for how to change (X,Y)."

Good bosses:
-- share goals with their staff
-- run air cover for their staff on all of things that the staff can't manage on their own
-- make performance measurement transparent and objective
-- verify with staff that they accept the goals and performance measures

Bad bosses:
-- take credit if things go well, ream you out if things go bad
-- sell out their team if there is a problem
-- make performance measurement subjective
-- don't give a damn what employees think

John Reh

Who was the Best Leader I ever knew? Easy. Read and you'll see why I'm still learning from him today.

Henrik Mårtensson

One of the best bosses I have had was the head of the marketing department at NordiskaFilt in Sweden. This was back in 1980 (give or take a year or two).

The marketing department wanted to build a device for measuring the amount of water in pulp in paper machines. I was 18 years old and the only programmer on the project.

The first thing my new boss told me when I met him was: "I don't know anything about programming, but I trust that you do, so just tell me what you need, and I'll get it for you."

The next thing he said was: "Let's go visit a paper mill, so you can see what this project is all about."

We spent a full day visiting a paper mill, crawling around in paper machines. When we were done, there was oil and pulp in my hair and my clothes, but I knew exactly what to build and why.

I have never forgotten the experience. It was a wonderful six month project. For years afterwards I assumed that was the way most managers handled things.

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