Can you tell me about best boss you ever had?

This is one of the first questions I ask clients when I sit down to work with them on leadership development. What’s interesting about asking this question is the responses I get are almost always the same. People say:

  • He trusted me.
  • I felt like she cared about me.
  • He didn’t micromanage me.
  • She believed in me.
  • When things didn’t go well he had my back.
  • She listened to me.
  • He asked my advice.

Soft Skills are Leadership’s Hard Skills

The list of attributes employees associate with their best bosses are the ones you’d typically classify as “soft skills.” They’re a person’s feelings, emotions, insights and overall emotional intelligence. But for leaders and managers, I would argue those soft skills are actually the hard skills necessary for success.

Yes, managers and leaders are there to get the work done and create results, but the reason they’re in that role is they have the capability to lead the team of people working for them. And that’s why those soft skills are so important.

Develop Your Leadership Competencies

So, how do you become the boss people would describe if they had to answer the question “who was your best boss?” First, you need to develop your key leadership competencies, such as the ability to motivate people, political savviness, good relationships with other departments and influence within the organization.

If you as a boss don’t have influence within the organization, your employees don’t have influence either. Leaders need to remember the more influence they have in the organization, the more influence their teams have. In other words, as you go as a leader, so goes your team.

Keep Your Message Consistent

As a boss, you also need to be aware of the image you’re projecting to your team. Often, bosses don’t think through the possible effects of their actions and behaviors. But it’s vital to remember that as a boss you’re always setting an example and people are looking to you for cues on what to do and how to behave. And if you aren’t managing your own professional image, others will be.

“People are constantly observing your behavior and forming theories about your competence, character, and commitment, which are rapidly disseminated throughout your workplace,” says Harvard Business School professor Laura Morgan Roberts, “It is only wise to add your voice in framing others’ theories about who you are and what you can accomplish.”

As a leader, you’re supposed to be better, smarter and wiser. Be thoughtful about that and take the higher road as much as possible. What you say and don’t say, and what you do and don’t do, let people know who you are. You’re always letting people know what’s important and what you value by the way you act. The best bosses are thoughtful about the image they’re projecting to their teams and work to ensure their words and behaviors are consistent with their messages.

Need help developing your emerging leaders? Consider sending them to The Success Labs Management Incubator.

Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, La. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.