Are you a great boss or just a manger?

by Ashvini on August 24, 2011 · 20 comments

in Managing Team effectively

One of my friends asked me recently  “What it takes to be become a great boss”. I asked him in return “Do you mean a great manager?”. No he said “Great boss”. I pondered over the difference. What is about boss that influences more than just being a manager?

Great boss or just a manager

A manager is most of the time the boss of someone and vice versa. So what is the reason we often prefer to call our manager as “Boss”( and sometimes as Sir). I have not heard till now anyone calling their superiors as “Manager” in front of his or her face( it would sound funny as well.)

While the boss is often connoted with terms such as “Bossing around”, I would like to use it in a positive sense.

What makes the word “Boss” more popular than a manager?

I think it has got to do more with the sense of belonging. Manager is almost impersonal. So if a Human resource person asks you , “Who is your manager?”, you probably understand who is she talking about. She is not asking for your “Boss”. On the other hand , boss is used when employees admires his or her superior and out of respect call him or her as “Boss”.

Boss is used in much more informal way, when the employee wants to develop more personal connection with the manager( much better than “Sir” which indicates some kind of authority figure). If you have been called a boss ever, you should consider yourself lucky because the employee calling you the boss thinks that you have the right credentials for the job. If not you can start working towards making yourself relationship better with subordinates.

As a boss you do not have to agree with everything your subordinate says to be popular. Remember you are still the manager, you have more experience in managing people than those you are managing. You have more accountability than any other member of team. It is just about understanding what a manager should do to achieve optimum levels of understanding with the team. It also means to develop a fruitful relationship to achieve objective as a team.

Hence what does it take to become a “Great boss”? In my experience, great bosses really do things  so much differently . I have worked with great bosses and also worked with bad managers. Here  are some of the best practice that I learned from some of the great bosses I worked under

  1. Great bosses motivate, motivate and motivate:

    A great boss never shies away from motivation. Even a small useful deed done by an employee is rewarded either by public praise, monetary reward or any other recognition. He or she never fails to communicate to other team members about the good work done by a single employee of the team.

  2. Great bosses never criticize in public:

    Bad managers often make this mistake. They shout, get angry in public, berate employees. Remember how humiliated we felt when chided in front of the class. That effect may be still there. No one likes to be shouted in public. If your subordinate has done something wrong, take him to a room and then get angry as much as you want( constructively) but never shout at him in public. A manager should manage his or her own feelings first and be in control of them.

  3. Great bosses listen to every suggestion however ridiculous it may be

    I was once scolded in school for giving a suggestion which the school principal misunderstood. I could never get off that feeling and stopped giving suggestions. It may have been an extreme reaction but giving suggestions is a hard thing to do. People are often scared that they would be laughed at or ridiculed. Great bosses are always open to suggestions even if they don’t agree with them. They put people at ease and thus help them to contribute more with ideas and suggestions

  4. Great bosses work hard towards learning technical things as far as possible

    Employees often complain “My manager does not understand the technicalities of subject” about a manager. It is a myth that a manager can manage a team without understanding basic of technology that their team is working in. A great boss doesn’t have to be a tech wizard but he knows at least some basics of field he or she is in .

  5. Great bosses never ever show off authority

    A great boss or a great manager never shows authority because he knows that such a show puts people off . A great boss always use tact, persuasion and motivation. He or she keeps the authority as a weapon of only last resort.

Now its your turn, what is the most important thing you admired about your boss /manager? Do let all of the readers of this blog know.

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Veronica Cervera@miami florida real estate October 10, 2011 at 5:09 am

A great boss or manager, for me, should also be a good leader. Now not all good managers are good leaders. Leaders are the ones who show you the way and tell you how to get there. Managers are the ones who tell you if whether or not you’re in the right place!

Miles | Wedding Marquee Hire September 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I never thought about the difference of being a boss and a manager. We can easily say that they’re just the same but I guess you’re right. There is a big difference. I think I would clarify on your last point that a boss never show off authority. For me, one is called a boss if he is regarded as having the authority inside or within the workplace. But as you’ve said, they do not show it off and only use it as a last resource. My point is, their authority makes them a boss and they use it in a positive way without being “bossy”. :D

Ashvini Kumar Saxena September 8, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Hi Miles,

Thanks for your comment :).
Authority is best used when never shown :).
, their authority makes them a boss and they use it in a positive way without being “bossy”. In the end this matters a lot to team members. It will determine if they are motivated or just pushed for work .
Really appreciate your comments.

Sonia September 3, 2011 at 12:39 am

I loved this Ash! I have been through my fair share of bosses and managers and I am glad that I have a great boss. Managers in my opinion simply come off as babysitters and always look like the bad guy. Do they make a difference in the organization? It depends because its the person behind the title which can be the deal breaker for an organization. I worked for a large enterprise companies that employed what I called, “Morons” for manager and didn’t know how to effectively manage a team. As dysfunctional as it was, they never tried to accomplish anything with the department other than just babysitting everyone and micro-managing those that needed it.

Bosses on the other hand, can make a huge impact depending on the work and company they run. My bosses are all the owners of the company, so I don’t just work for any (1) person. They believe in team work and talk often to discuss how the company is going and what they need to do in various departments. Bosses have larger titles (my opinion) and bigger tasks in front of them. Managers on the other have run of the mill tasks that they don’t want to be bothered with. I never had much respect for managers I worked with because they never measured up and I didn’t want to have the headache they had to deal with either.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena September 5, 2011 at 10:11 am

Hi Sonia,

Hope you are doing great. It wonderful to see you back. I thought you had forgotten your friend :).

I really am fond of your comments because they are so full of your experience and real life examples. There are really no incentives to work beyond required work profile in a large organization. That means, people who are managers there are de-incentivized. Large bureaucracies have their ways of stifling talent. A good example is state bureaucracy in India where the brightest minds just disappear into. There are no set laws for performance, just please the boss mentality. If the organization tells one that the only promotion they see is in next two years, good bye work. Maybe people will start working six months before promotion time so that get noticed. That way they know how to play the cards right. Big companies are also almost like governments except they need to show profits.

Startups are the places , I would love to work. I have worked with MNCs who were small in presence though. They had all the bells and whistles of small organization but soon became big and bureaucratic. The biggest challenge for them was how keep the informality alive while getting bigger in size. They failed miserably.
You are really lucky to have great managers :) and I hope that they remain the same.

Thanks for your comments and welcome back :)

rob white August 30, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Great distinctions, Ashvini. To be a strong leader, one must first learn to be his/her own leader. When a boss is his/her own leader they never get caught in the pettiness of flaunting authority, criticizing and other foolishness. To me, the halmark of a great boss is to say only what needs being said.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena September 1, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Hi Rob,

Welcome to my blog and thanks for your comment.
I agree with you that authority should be the last thing on the mind of a great leader . A true leader will get work done by tact more than authority.

Have a great day and thanks again :)

Chrysta Bairre August 30, 2011 at 7:44 am

I really enjoyed this article and I agree with your descriptions of a great boss.

I truly wish more managers thought less about controlling outcomes and more about empowering employees to be their best.

I believe empowered employees will produce a great outcome, where managed employees are more likely to put forth just enough effort to keep their manager off their back. When I have seen this worker attitude in action, it happens when employees don’t have sufficient opportunity for growth, independent accountability and innovation.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena August 30, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Hi Chrysta,

I thank you for being so kind so as to comment on my blog :).
I am really glad that you enjoyed this article.
I absolutely love this statement from you
I truly wish more managers thought less about controlling outcomes and more about empowering employees to be their best.. This is the essence isn’t it but I have seen across the world that it is rarely followed. Empowered employees are assets that every organization need. I just got an idea from this to write about empowering employee. I have seen this in action and how much it changes the perception of the company in my mind :) .
I think your experience speaks a volume about organizations nurturing better managers who work with their employees rather than on them :)
Thanks again for visiting and have a great day :)

Bryce Christiansen August 30, 2011 at 4:49 am

Hi Ashvini,

Thought I’d stop by after reading your comments on Adrienne’s blog. Glad I did.

I never stopped to think about what the difference between a manager and a boss was, but I tend to agree with your thoughts.

My best bosses never lost their cool in front of us, were willing to do the dirty work, and were hard to say no to.

I’ve been lucky to have a lot of good bosses. Thanks for the great points.

Looking forward to more,


Ashvini Kumar Saxena August 30, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Hi Bryce,

I am really thankful to you to visit and comment on my blog. This is the way I have found great friends on blogosphere and I think it is a wonderful place :).

I literally longed once for getting a good boss because they are so few. Most of them are just managers doing whatever company tells them to do.I am glad that you found them too.

Thanks again for commenting and now that we are connected I will meet you at your blog soon :)
Best regards,

Carolyn@The Wonder of Tech August 29, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Hi Ashvini, Super article. I agree with everything, especially the motivation part. A great boss brings out the best in his or her employees. The employees should be motivated to do their best out of respect for their boss, not out of fear.

One other point I would add as necessary for a great boss is the willingness to fight for his employees. I had a boss once who said that he thought I deserved a promotion, but didn’t want to bring it up that year when the economy was tight. I left soon after that as I felt that he could use that excuse every year. If I wanted to do my best for him, then I felt he should do his best for me.

An idea for a follow up blog post: What it takes to be a great employee.

Thanks so much for another inspiring and informative post.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena August 30, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Hi Carolyn,

Thank you so much for your appreciation and your comment :)

I remember two good managers from my career, one a lady from Sweden and another a team lead in America. They were intelligent and fun to work with. There was so much to learn from them. I was given huge responsibilities by Boss from Sweden. I was only 26 years old then, with 4-5 years of experience. But she had faith in me and it turned out well.

There are very few bosses who fight for their juniors. In fact I have been a team lead and protected my guys from external pressure. Even though we don’t work together my juniors and I are very good friends still. As a boss , we are judged at every turn and we need to build the respect with our subordinates.

Thanks for your suggestion on next post. I am really grateful and please keep suggesting me topics as I sometimes run out of them.
I really appreciate your comments and great words in it :)
Best regards,

Adrienne August 27, 2011 at 12:03 am

Hi Ashvini,

Wonderful post and here are a few of my thoughts.

I can see that term being used differently like when I was in the work force there were times when my “boss” was the guy I worked for but he didn’t “manage” me. Mainly because he had other things to do, like run the company. There might be like an administrative supervisor that managed everyone in specific jobs. So that’s where I see the big difference coming in.

Every single one of your tips for what makes a good boos is right on. I totally 100% agree with every single one of them. Could not have said that better myself.

Wonderful post so thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Hope you have a blessed day and a fabulous weekend.


Ashvini Kumar Saxena August 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Hi Adrienne,

Welcome once again to the blog and thanks for your fantastic comment :).

I just wanted boss to have a positive meaning even though my wife keeps insisting that it is not for positive ;). A great boss is always a reason to stay on even in a bad organization. I am glad you had your experience with the right person. I think you would make a great boss too :) as you got so many qualities ( mentoring especially).

Thanks again and have a great day.

Mouh August 26, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Tell me about all this! I had a boss who used to show off authority. I hated him and I still hate him now. He walked and talked as if he was more important and as if he knew everything. Trust me, I can’t emphasis this more, I HATED him. I wasn’t the only one who did. The rest of the team didn’t enjoy his swaggering peremptory manner either. Needless to say, the business failed! I do think bosses must never show off authority. Bosses who don’t do that will never criticize in public, ignore suggestions or fail to motivate the team.

Great article, Ashvini. I really enjoyed reading this one.


Ashvini Kumar Saxena August 30, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Hi Mouh,

Really sorry for the late reply my friend :) . Almost all of us here at India were involved with a protest ( you might have heard about it). I abandoned my blog for sometime for that .
Great bosses never show authority. They know how to get the work done by tact and diplomacy.
I am really moved by your experience and I feel across the world we have things that are common and impactful.
Thanks for sharing your insights :) and sorry once again :)

Fabrizio@BlogMarketingTips September 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Mouh, I know exactly where you’re coming from, my ex-boss was very similar and although the company didn’t go squit, he’s built up a huge reputation and nobody really wants to be working for him anymore. I still run into him when I’m about in town and nothing ever changes with him. Even though I hated working for him and like you I still do, he always crops up in conversations and I’ll always use him as an example of very bad management.

Aswani August 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Very well written post. I have been working here in my present company from last 2 years and I have been through all kinds of experiences myself. I do not know what to say exactly. It has been a mixed experience but I think yes, you are correct…A Good Boss needs to be a great mentor, motivator. I cannot see it here. A Good Boss must do everything possible to boost employee morale which is so very important in a highly stressful working environment. A Good Boss must understand that things may not go well always and to expect sureshot results everytime is being too optimistic. A Good Boss must get out of bias attitude. Yes, it is ok to reward anyone on the basis of his/her performance but it shouldn’t be the sole criteria for decision making. Also, a Good Boss must find some time to listen to employee woes and should do the needful.

Ashvini…so much can be written here. But anyways, these were some of my top concerns…just my personal opinion. Hope most of us agree…!

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