What constitutes a good boss?

What constitutes a good boss has long been a subject for debate but a new report reveals some fundamental disagreement over what it takes to lead in today’s workplaces.

Less than a third of British workers believe they have a good boss, even though more than 85% of bosses believe themselves to be good leaders.

That’s according to a white paper report commissioned by the National Business Awards which asked both employers and employees to rate the key traits of inspirational leadership and what makes a good or bad leader, with the results showing many bosses may not be as effective as they think they are.

The majority of employees agree that a good leader encourages greater loyalty and motivates them, while just under half say it makes them want to do better.

But more than one in 10 employees rated their boss as poor, while a similar number said they never see their leader so couldn’t judge whether they were good or bad – taking the notion of an undercover boss to new extremes.

So what does it take to make a great business leader in today’s modern workplace? Is being ‘successful’ enough, or do we look for further qualities such as altruism and ethical business practice?

Staff said the top five personality traits of a good leader were honesty, good communication skills, being hardworking and trustworthy and intelligence, which was similar to those chosen by bosses.

And conversely, the top five personality traits of a bad leader according to employees were untrustworthiness, a patronising attitude, poor communication, instilling fear in workers and overconfidence. Leaders themselves rated poor communication, untrustworthiness, instilling fear in workers, indecisiveness and being patronising to staff as the worst traits.

But it also seems that the nation’s business leaders are willing to up their game with 93% saying they would consider adapting their leadership style if they thought it would improve business morale and or profitability. More than 70% of leaders say they have listened to staff feedback to help improve their leadership style, with 44% going on leadership courses and 39% modelling themselves on, or learning from other leaders – such as Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs who were named as the most inspirational business leaders of all time. They also identified certain business names, for their specific character strengths, including Bill Gates and Steve jobs for their intelligence and Alan Sugar for his hard work ethic.

As well as business success, is it a coincidence that they are all known to be altruistic leaders? For their charitable deeds and good treatment of staff? In the white paper, Professor Bones explains how important it is for leaders to be the best they can be and that being recognised for their achievements is a very positive act of leadership. Perhaps it is no coincidence therefore, that the report found two of the most inspirational leaders of all time to be Bill Gates and Anita Roddick.

The White Paper was commissioned by the National Business Awards with the backing of Professor Chris Bones from the Manchester Business School as they call for entries for this year’s awards which celebrates business excellence.

With more than half of employees saying they would be inspired if their boss or the business they work for was to win an award, organisers hope the insight will lead to high levels of participation in 2013.

Alan Chambers MBE is an inspiration for any leader. The former Royal Marine Commando learned his leadership skills in the forces and received the MBE for ‘exceptional leadership in extreme adversity’ when he led the first successful unsupported British expedition to the geographic North Pole.

He joins us along with Christopher Bones, Professor of Creativity and Leadership at Manchester Business School and author of The Cult of Leader to talk about what it takes to lead in UK business today and Dame Helen Alexander, Chair of Judges for The National Business Awards.

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