6 Traits to Look For in Your Next Boss


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When searching for roles, we often overlook the impact an exceptional manager or boss can have on our work life and ultimately our career’s growth trajectory. While it’s important to evaluate an organization holistically (i.e. its mission, accolades and reputation), it’s just as important to understand who your next direct manager will be.

According to James K. Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist for workplace management, at least 75% of the reasons for voluntary turnover can be influenced by managers. In fact, according to research conducted by Gallup, your immediate manager is the top predictor of turnover. Recognizing the significant impact they can exert, here are six key traits to prioritize in your next boss when job hunting.

1. Someone who’s driven by the collective

Effective managers lead with the company’s mission at heart. In other words, they empower those around them, particularly their direct reports. They do so by understanding that their role as a leader hinges on the success of every team member. Former CEO of General Electric Jack Welch summarized this well with the following quote: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

Great managers learn early on that they can’t do it all on their own; they also know their team intimately, including each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. So, they delegate work in a way that plays off each individual’s expertise while propelling the collective forward.

Related: 12 Character Traits Exceptional Entrepreneurial Leaders Have In Common

2. Someone who can coach and inspire

Not only will your boss need to coach and guide you, but they should be able to teach in a way that you can learn. We all grow and retain information in various ways, so your relationship with your manager should be synergetic. To properly assess any future manager, it’s important to know and understand the environment in which you work and grow best. For instance, are you someone who responds well to direct feedback? What motivates you and how do you prefer to receive direction? Based on your answers to some of these questions, you can determine what kind of manager will work best for you and your learning style.

Beyond coaching, truly exceptional managers inspire those around them. By encouraging direct reports to take calculated risks, push boundaries and dream big, they instill a sense of ownership and empowerment. When speaking with potential employers, you should ultimately walk away from conversations with the hiring manager feeling motivated and energized by the prospect of working for them.

3. Someone who provides autonomy

We’ve all heard the term “micromanager” and the negative connotation it carries. A good manager provides instruction; a great manager fosters autonomy. Look for leaders willing to give you the space needed to experiment, innovate and achieve. Effective managers aren’t afraid of potential failure, and while they won’t compromise on results, they give direct reports the freedom to generate new ideas, reinvent the wheel and think outside the box.

4. Someone who leads with empathy

Empathy plays a fundamental role in how we understand and relate to the people around us. And since a prerequisite to managing people is simply understanding them, great managers lead with empathy. Empathy is arguably the most important trait for a manager to possess; it helps establish respect and trust. When leaders genuinely care about their team members’ well-being, it creates a culture of camaraderie. Employees feel valued and appreciated, resulting in increased job satisfaction, higher morale and reduced turnover.

An empathetic manager considers the impact of their decisions on employees’ day-to-day and explains the thought behind larger decisions affecting the team. Additionally, they celebrate the achievements and milestones of direct reports by actively showing appreciation.

Related: 7 Traits All Great Business Leaders Share

5. Someone who’s transparent and honest

A good boss is not only honest when it’s convenient but also when it’s difficult. In business, tough conversations must be had. By remaining open and transparent, an effective manager doesn’t leave their team in the dark. They recognize that keeping their team informed, particularly during moments of crisis or uncertainty, is crucial for maintaining morale. The manager often sets the tone for the entire team, so if they lead with a sense of openness and understanding, the team will be more likely to embrace accountability and transparency.

6. Someone who doesn’t just hear, but also listens

Like any relationship, the one between you and your boss hinges on strong and effective communication. A great manager listens first and speaks last. Giving their team undivided attention during group meetings and one-on-ones empowers direct reports to take ownership of projects, allowing them to become the subject matter experts they were hired to be.

During your interviews, seize the opportunity to interact with your potential future colleagues. Pay attention to how those who currently work under the hiring manager speak and feel about their supervisor. It can provide valuable insights into the work environment and leadership style.

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