What Makes Someone a Great Manager?

(Originally posted at Quora.com under What makes someone a great manager?)
The truly great manager or supervisor — someone I call a “Best Boss” — will achieve two simultaneous goals:
  1. They will make you feel emotionally safe.
  2. They will push you to grow.


Safety – not to be confused with being sheltered from the consequences of your own actions. When you are emotionally safe, you feel willing to take a chance, to admit a mistake, to ask for help, to try something new.
When a worker is emotionally unsafe, they will not take any chances, they will attempt to hide their mistakes, they will not show weakness by asking for help even when they need it, and they will never ever ever try anything new.
Great ways to create higher levels of safety are:
  • to clarify the rules of the game at work,
  • to clarify the process steps that bring about excellent results,
  • to train people, and
  • to put people in jobs they are well-suited for.


Growth – Includes pushing people out of their comfort zone.

Anybody can learn inside their comfort zone. We’ve all done that. But true growth, a real stretching of one’s skills and abilities, is always accompanied by some level of discomfort. Some of us are comfortable with that discomfort. An excellent boss will push you into discomfort.But they have to know how not to push you past discomfort into fear, panic, or beyond your ability to perform at least moderately well.

A Best Boss is not afraid to demand excellence. Especially because they know how good you are – better than you know it yourself.

They built a relationship with you. They keep you emotionally safe, so you’re willing to take a chance. You like and respect them enough that you give them permission to push you.

What Makes Someone a Great Manager

Here’s a test.

Imagine you work for a really lousy boss, who doesn’t care about you in the slightest. He hands some work back to you and tells you that you need to do better. In your heart, you are convinced he has no idea what good work is, or whether you tried hard or not.

Now imagine you work for a Best Boss. You know he cares about you as a person. You know he is keenly aware of exactly how good you are. He has more confidence in you than you have in yourself. He has pushed you in the past, and you’ve been surprised at your own ability to grow. He hands some work back to you and tells you that he needs you to do better. In your heart, you’re convinced he knows exactly what good work is, and he knows what you are capable of.

Here’s the test — which boss gets better results from you? Which one do you NOT give better results to?

There’s your answer.

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