Being the Best Possible Boss: 12 Lessons Leaders Should Embrace

What did you learn about management style from the best boss you ever had, and how has it informed your own management style today?

Business leader

The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Lead From the Front Lines

The best boss I’ve had was the RF Lab lead at BlackBerry. He began as an engineer and was later asked to take an office with a big promotion. Yet he spent as much time as possible in the lab, led technical discussions and took the time to teach me (a co-op) about RF. Andy Grove wrote that a manager’s job is to motivate and train, and I believe the best managers do that from the front lines.

Hongwei Liu, mappedin

2. Help Your Team Members Be Successful

People learn and work differently, and your job as a manager is to help your team members be successful in their roles. Be a good listener and observer. Try to understand their strengths and how they work best. Then use approaches that support them. For example, I make sure to ask lots of questions to my quieter team members to elicit their thoughts during our one-on-ones and working sessions.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart, Meeteor

3. Always Listen

One thing I learned is to always listen, and to make it apparent that you listened. One tactic he frequently uses in emails is writing out “I hear you” and saying what he likes about what the person said. If he disagrees, he follows up with why he may want to axe or alter a plan. But the person feels heard, so they’re much more open to the alternate idea at that point.

Cassie Petrey, Crowd Surf

4. Let Employees Make Decisions

My best boss ever was a dad of five who was managing a team of 25. I was a sales manager under him, and even though I was working for a huge media company, he instructed us to “run our own business.” He gave us the ability to make decisions on our own and learn from our mistakes, all while recognizing what our clients needed from us, not him. I had incredible success under him.

Lindsay Pinchuk, Bump Club and Beyond

5. Focus on Being Consistent Rather Than Well-Loved

You do your team members a disservice when you manage them as a friend, and it’s hard to approach business decisions objectively when things have to get done. It’s better to be consistent than to be well-loved. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be, but at the end of the day people care that they have a job, are growing career-wise, are challenged, and are making money over you being nice.

Michael Mogill, Crisp Video Group

6. Build Relationships

The best boss I ever had taught me that bosses don’t have to be cold and strictly focused on business 24/7 in order to maintain authority and be successful. Today, I look for opportunities to get to know my employees and I let them get to know me. The effects are very positive. Fear is no doubt an effective motivator, but loyalty and devotion are powerful, too — and they make things a lot more fun.

Jesse Lear, V.I.P. Waste Services, LLC

Engaged employees having a meeting

7. Enthusiasm Is Contagious

I learned, indirectly, that being enthusiastic is contagious. When you are passionate and enthusiastic about something, others will follow. They will feel that energy and become engaged. This will translate into dedicated employees working toward a common goal instead of just punching the time clock.

Ryan Shank, PhoneWagon

8. Remember the Three-Legged Stool

My best boss taught me the three-legged stool decision process: time, money and quality. Before any decisions were made, we needed to consider how the decision impacted the budget, worked with the project timeline and fit within the quality standards of our brand. This decision process is key to how our employees continually strengthen their project management skills and grow professionally.

Drew Gurley, Redbird Advisors

9. Don’t Micromanage

Early in my career, I managed a small team and was so intent on making a good impression with the company that I tried to micromanage every aspect of the project. My direct superior noticed and took me aside. He told me to trust the hiring process — these were good people hired because they knew their work. The lesson I learned: Hire the right people and give them the latitude they need to shine.

Vik Patel, Future Hosting

10. Help Them Get Results on Their Own

Many entrepreneurs have a tendency to want to do things their way. The best manager I’ve ever worked with taught me to allow others to take true responsibility for their decisions, and to allow them to fail or succeed based on the choices they make. It isn’t my job to help them get the best end result today: It’s to help them become the person who gets the best end result on their own.

Zach Obront, Book in a Box

11. Lead by Example to Earn Respect

One of the best managers I ever had knew that he had to lead by example. He didn’t expect respect, he earned it every day. By leading by example, working hard and showing people he held himself to the highest standards, he inspired everyone around him. Watching him taught me to make sure that my whole team knows that I care, and they see it every day.

Tommy Mello, A1 Garage Door Repair

12. Always Speak the Truth

One of the most important lessons I have learned from my mentors is to always speak the truth to everyone involved in your business. To your clients, to your employees, to your partners. White lies are no exception. By demonstrating to your team that they will always get the truth from you, they will never second guess your words. They will also replicate your behavior with their constituents.

Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors