Over the last dozen years or so I worked as a substitute teacher at an independent school in Tacoma, Washington. During that time school leadership changed fairly regularly. I have worked under 5 Heads, 2 Assistant Heads, 4 Middle School Directors, and 3 Lower School Directors. This collective experience observing the varied styles, ethics, strengths and weaknesses of each of these individuals gives me some perspective on the top qualities or skills of the most effective managers or leaders.


Tell it like it is good or bad. Save the sugar coating for the candy in the break room. Your subordinates will appreciate the candor of knowing your bottom line regardless of the topic. Transparency in action fosters an atmosphere of respect. If you trust that the boss tells the truth, you will have confidence that even the most difficult information will be presented objectively.

Openness to other Viewpoints or Ideas

This goes back to the adage, two heads are better than one. The best managers solicit suggestions or feedback from staff when appropriate. That does not mean letting disgruntled workers air their dirty laundry at each and every opportunity, but it does mean allowing folks to share different perspectives and possessing the willingness to agree to disagree in some cases.

Recognizes all Employees are part of the Team

Every company includes a diverse mix of people, roles, and responsibilities. The bottom line is that everyone, whether it be the night janitor or the head honcho, plays a role in the success of the overall business. The best managers recognize the value of each employee’s contribution and take time to ensure everyone not only feels included, but also has the resources and support to perform their duties to the highest standards.

One of my former bosses was famous for not knowing people’s names, especially those who worked in supporting positions me included. After I gave the eulogy for an employee who died, this charming boss and his wife came up to me and said that they had no idea what a wonderful person this man was, and that perhaps they had erred in not getting to know the “little people.” Unfortunately, by that time it was too late for dear Evan.

Admits Mistakes

OK, even I have to admit bosses are human and as such will make mistakes. The top leaders quickly acknowledge their bone-headed follies and take time to make amends or rectify the misstep. It may be embarrassing or perhaps somewhat humiliating, because none of us wants to be wrong; however your staff will likely forgive your transgressions provided you are willing to reciprocate when they are the one who’s apologizing.

Follows the Golden Rule

This quality does not need much explanation. Treat your employees the way you wish to be treated. Honesty, integrity, and respect are not just words, but deeds. You may just find folks are a little more willing to work harder when times are tough if you are in the trenches slogging away with them.

Finding a manager who possesses all of these key qualities may be virtually impossible, but as a boss, striving to reach these standards will likely garner the respect of your staff, even if you goof up once in a while.