In Search of the Perfect "Boss"

by  Karin Hurt  |  Leadership Development

imperfect bossNo one hates the “B” word as much as I do, so why did I chose that word for the title of my first book?  Because despite all our efforts to “lead change” and encourage servant leadership, most of our readers are struggling in imperfect hierarchical organizations working for an imperfect boss.

And even as we strive to overcome our own imperfections, as we lead people, someone out there is viewing us as “the boss.”

It’s important to get that conversation on the table and discuss what these relationships can be at their very best.

In Search of the Perfect Boss

The perfect boss is as elusive as the ideal mate.  And yet, we’re frustrated when our leaders fall short of our impossible expectations.

We long for leaders who will…

  • Engage us in a compelling vision
  • Have the utmost integrity
  • Be authentic and transparent
  • Treat us kindly and fairly
  • Develop, mentor and coach us
  • Empower and trust us
  • Communicate clearly
  • Motivate us
  • Be competent and knowledgeable
  • Have a sense of humor

Bosses who think they’re great are the most frightening.  It’s usually the strongest leaders who have the least tolerance for their bosses’ bungles.

Strong leaders think, “I’d never treat MY team THAT way… which PROVES she’s a jerk.”

The truth is, she’s just an imperfect human being doing the best she can.  Just like you.

4 Signs of a R.E.A.L. Boss Relationship

Starting from a place of imperfection liberates us to work on the relationship and make it more real.   How do you know when you’re in a great relationship with your boss?  Here’s my view.  Please add your thoughts in the comments.


You’ve got great results.   Sure there are a lot of factors that influence results, but having a great relationship with your manager helps.  If you really like the guy, but you’re not winning, your relationship may be snuggly, but may need some fine-tuning to be truly effective.  Although, great results are the end-game, how you handle mistakes matters as well.   Great boss relationships survive and even thrive after well-intentioned screw-ups.


Working together is exciting and fun.  You recognize and leverage each of your unique gifts.    You find ways to tap into peripheral skills that light you up.   You look forward to your interactions.   When the work get’s really stressful, you support one another versus adding to the pain.  You both recognize the need for rest and renewal and support a healthy integrated life.


You can count on one another to tell the truth and to follow-through on commitments.  You aren’t afraid to be yourself and you invest in getting to know each other as people.  You share how you’re really thinking and feeling, and can count on one another to keep confidences.


You’re constantly challenging one another to improve.  You proactively offer feedback and recognize success.    You feel stretched, yet scaffolded in your risks.   You support each other on your quest for continuous improvement.  Learning together feels healthy and fun.

Your turn.  What makes for a great boss relationship?

You can download a free sample chapter of my Overcoming an Imperfect Boss:  A Practical Guide to Building a Better Relationship with Your Boss by clicking here.  Or watch the short video.

About The Author

Articles By karin-hurt
Karin Hurt is a leadership speaker, consultant and MBA professor. She’s a former Verizon Wireless executive with 2 decades of diverse cross-functional experience in sales, customer service and HR. She was recently recognized on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Speakers for your next conference, AMA’s 50 Leaders to Watch in 2015, and Trust Across America’s 100 Thought Leaders in Trusted Business Behavior.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mary C Schaefer  |  08 Apr 2014  |  Reply

Karin, what a great use of the acronym R.E.A.L. for a truly realistic relationship with a “boss.” Thanks for the post!

Bill Benoist  |  08 Apr 2014  |  Reply

First and foremost, I love the title of your book and looking forward to reading it.

Some will say you cannot be both a boss and a friend, but I will disagree with that statement. I have an imperfect boss, but I want to acknowledge him as one of the most awesome managers I have worked for during my career.

My manager and I have worked together for more than 17 years and I consider him one of my closest friends, and I know he feels the same for me. Would he terminate me if warranted? In a heart beat! He has never mixed our friendship with work, but I know he has my back 100% – as I do his.

There is something to say about relationships like ours. Along with two other managers, we collectively run an IT Department that is consistently recognized in various media outlets as a leader in the industry with hardly any staff turnover.

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