Leadership principles: 21 things that come naturally to good bosses

These 21 leadership principles make good bosses

What characterizes a modern, really good boss? HR professionals and entrepreneurs on leadership principles that will make your team shine.

1. You listen actively.

The majority of German employees think their boss is a poor listener. That showed a study of the academy for high-level personnel of the economy. "Many misunderstandings in daily interaction could be avoided – if managers would only take the time to simply listen," says executive coach Bernd Geropp. "Many managers often listen only briefly and judge employees’ statements far too quickly instead of first taking in what is being said, asking questions and following up on them."

Employees have a keen sense of whether their boss is genuinely interested in what they want to tell him or her. If, on the other hand, bosses only listen with half an ear, it suggests a lack of appreciation, even though it may not be meant that way at all. And that causes frustration.

Good bosses therefore give their employees their full attention when employees approach them with an idea or other concern. "Good listeners convey appreciation and thereby gain trust," says Geropp. "You receive valuable information, can better assess situations and thus avoid misunderstandings."

2. They say thank you.

It’s a small word, but it has a big impact: the word thank you. A boss who says thank you every now and then shows employees that their performance is seen and recognized. That gives them a good feeling. And they will then also much rather go to the trouble for their boss.

3. You grant your employees freedom.

Many employees want to work independently and also be able to decide things for themselves. If bosses constantly interfere with decisions that fall within their employees’ area of responsibility, this leads to frustration. Good bosses let their employees work autonomously on the tasks assigned to them.

Of course, some decisions are a matter for the boss. But with so-called micromanagement, you educate your team to immaturity, says Geropp. In the worst case, everyone ends up just working to rule.

4. You trust your employees.

Your employees certainly have skills that qualify them for their job. Otherwise they would not have hired them. So trust your employees and refrain from excessive control.

If you don’t think an employee is quite up to the task, you should think about his or her scope of duties and perhaps delegate other tasks to him or her, advises Geropp.

5. They delegate tasks without constant checks.

If you don’t want to do everything yourself as a boss, you have to learn to distribute tasks. "The rule here is: only as much control as necessary," says Geropp. "And: you control the result of the work, but not the way to get there."

To find out how much control is necessary, you need to be able to engage with your employees and assess their abilities as accurately as possible, says the executive coach. "This is the only way to properly adjust the level of delegation."

6. They ensure a good error culture.

Many employees want to become really good. "In return, you have to be allowed to make mistakes," says Geropp. Those who constantly control their employees and reprimand and punish them for mistakes prevent them from trying things out and exploring new paths.

Good bosses make sure there is no fear of making mistakes in the company. When mistakes occur, the main thing should be for employees to learn from them and do better next time. For this to succeed, bosses should also consider how they can support their employees in this process.

7. You explain exactly what they expect.

Do you ever get angry that your employees didn’t do their jobs the way you expected them to?? Then it could also be because you have not communicated it clearly enough.

8. They criticize in private.

If you make a mistake, you usually get angry yourself and hopefully do better next time. What you as a boss should avoid in such situations: Publicly criticizing your employees for it or beating them up. This is extremely unpleasant for them.

If employees are more frequently publicly denounced for mistakes, they will develop a dislike for you. Good bosses therefore address their employees in private about mistakes.

9. You praise employees and appreciate exceptional commitment.

"Not scolded is praised enough," is the saying in Baden-Wurttemberg. However, a boss who follows this motto frustrates his employees in the long run. People long for recognition. If you really put yourself out there, you want to be rewarded for it. Good bosses therefore praise their employees when they have done something well.

Bosses also benefit from thanking their employees for their efforts with praise. Albert Bandura, psychology professor at the American Stanford University, proved: Employees who are praised are more motivated and set higher goals for themselves.

By the way: If you want to praise your employees for a certain thing, you should do it immediately and not some time later, recommends management coach Agnes Jarosch. Otherwise the praise loses its effect. "It’s also more authentic than if the boss doesn’t realize until months later that a project went well."When praising, be as specific as possible and say exactly what you like about it. The terse phrase: "Well done" is interchangeable and therefore often misses its mark.

For more tips, read our article "Praise the right way: 10 golden rules for motivating praise"

10. They make it clear to whom successes are actually owed.

No one respects bosses in the long run who constantly take credit for something that employees actually accomplished and let employees’ performance fall by the wayside – or sell employees’ ideas as their own. Good bosses make it clear who they have to thank for their successes and good ideas.

11. You expect and welcome honest feedback.

If you welcome and value honest feedback from your employees, you will hear from your employees when something is not going in the right direction or is going wrong. This is the only way you can make a positive difference for the future.

12. You share information and explain decisions.

If employees are not kept informed about decisions and developments, they feel excluded and this can also lead to mistrust. "Transparency creates and fosters trust," says executive coach Lorenz Haschtmann.

Good bosses therefore share information with their employees, explain the background to decisions and are available to answer questions. When bosses explain decisions, they take their employees on board and it is then (usually) easier for them to support the decisions and implement them.

13. You are approachable and easy to reach.

Good bosses listen to their employees and do not close themselves off from them. They also actively seek dialogue themselves – and not just when something goes wrong.

14. They set priorities.

If you don’t set priorities, you run the risk of getting bogged down. Good bosses therefore do not start dozens of things at the same time, but concentrate on the essentials. When setting priorities, the Eisenhower principle helps.

15. They lend a hand.

Good bosses are not afraid to get their hands dirty and do the same work as their employees. This ensures respect – and also helps them better understand their employees’ workflows. In this way, they can see what is going really well in their day-to-day work and where things may still be lacking at times.

16. They inspire employees.

Exceptional bosses manage to inspire their employees and get them excited about the company’s goals and strategy. Employees who allow themselves to be infected by this are prepared to deliver above-average performance and will go the extra mile for their boss.

17. You protect your employees.

Good bosses do not allow employees to be treated badly by colleagues or customers and stand in front of them, trying to mediate and arbitrate. Entrepreneur Jurgen Krenzer, for example, took a tough step and parted ways with a customer who was terrorizing his employees. You can read about how he went about this in the article "Mr. Krenzer – your staff is ruining your reputation".

18. You show that you care about the well-being of your employees.

Good bosses have a genuine interest in the well-being of their employees. They are well aware of how their employees are doing and what is particularly occupying, pleasing or stressing them at the moment.

19. They respect their employees’ time.

Meetings that are too long are not only annoying, but often produce poorer results because the participants become tired of making decisions and just want to get out of the meeting. Good bosses prevent meetings from getting out of hand and ensure an efficient meeting culture.

20. They make sure that new employees fit well into the team.

When positions are to be filled, it is important that the future employee fits well into the team and the corporate culture. Good bosses involve colleagues in selection rounds, ask them for their opinion and respect it. After all, it is mainly the colleagues who will have to work with the new employee later on.

"If everyone independently has a good feeling and the candidate has convinced in terms of content, then that’s a positive sign," says Goran Baric, managing director of personnel consultancy PageGroup Germany. If not, you may save yourself from making a (costly) bad decision.

21. You ensure that your employees can achieve their goals.

Good bosses not only assign tasks and goals, but also discuss with employees how they can realistically achieve these goals. According to the motto: "What can I contribute so that my employees can do their job well??"

Perfectly prepared for employee interviews

Employee interviews

With the checklist "Perfectly prepared for appraisal interviews", you as a manager go into the interview with your employees with a good feeling – and know exactly what you want to say. Download now for free!

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