Who was your best boss?

February 7th, 2017 by Patricia Jehle Leave a reply »

Who was your best boss?


My boss, Don B. was not my first boss, but he was, and still is, for me the epitome of what a good boss should be. He was directive when need be, but he trusted us to know our jobs. His office door was usually open for us, and he knew how to motivate and thank people.


Today I found my old boss on linkedin and asked to connect. I hope he does, but it could be that he is a passive LI member. After all, he was getting ready to retire 25 years ago when I took off for Switzerland and new adventures; he had positive plans for himself. But that is a subject for another blog. Here I want to say what Don did right in leading and how that made me work and feel.




In Daniel Goleman’s recent blog[1] he says, “For leaders, having the trust of their subordinates and open lines of communication are crucial.”


Don trusted me to know what I was doing. I was a rookie ESL teacher and the school was starting its first program. I had to teach, liaise between teachers and students, between teachers and the over-reaching ESL administration, I had to sensitize teachers to the students’ (refugees, all of them) needs… the list goes on. Don trusted me and allowed me to do my work and when I left the program was really gearing up. He trusted me enough to ask for student teachers to come and be trained by me. I felt very honored.




Don could lead. He was never heavy-handed and did a lot of leadership with a dry sense of humor. When something had to be done, it was done, and well. He made sure. He also made sure we took care of ourselves. On more than one occasion he told me to go home at the end of the day and that the correcting and planning could “wait until tomorrow”. He even allowed for the teachers to use the gym after school for a fitness class to keep us healthy. He was directive when it needed to be done, but he was not a power-hungry leader.


I think part of this has to do with the fact that Don was secure in himself enough to lead but also to let go and let others do what they were best at. Don realized that he couldn’t do everything and that his team had the skills, knowledge, and experience to do their jobs.


Recently I spoke with a friend who has a boss who is 15 or so years younger than she is. My friend is an experienced analyst in a pharmaceutical company. She knows her stuff, but now the “new boss” is asking for my friend to have all her writing and emails checked by the boss before sending, like she is an apprentice or new on the job. Scary. But it happens so very often. Why? My guess is that the new boss is insecure and has to control. That’s what happens when, as Daniel Goleman says, the emotional intelligence level is low. Brené Brown would say that this boss is not able to be authentic. Both are correct. But good leadership needs this kind of soft skill set.




We teachers could walk in when Don’s door was open and just talk. I don’t remember very many conversations with him, but one in particular sticks in my mind: the one where I told him I was going to work in the mountains of Switzerland and teach English there for a year. He smiled and said something like, “Good for you! Congratulations! I bet you won’t be coming back at the end of the year.” He was so encouraging and positive; and he was correct in his prognostication. That was about 25 years ago and I have been living and working in Switzerland ever since. Thank you, Don.


Bosses who have an open door policy communicate a couple of very positive messages to their employees: the employees are valuable enough to allow them to interrupt (when the door is open), and that communication is important for the team/company. Both the value the employees feel and the emphasis on open communication are powerful for the success of a team and of a company.




It is hard on a shoe-string budget to motivate people, but Don did it by words and by recognition and by parties (when the inner-city school could afford it). I was often aghast at hearing how other teachers were treated in other schools in the school district and state. It is hard to work in an inner city setting where the odds are stacked against you and the many of the kids come from pretty rough homes. But Don was as positive as he could be. He used his words to lift us up and move us forward, not drag us down.


Don said thank you. Often, and personally. He showed his respect and honor in more than one way, often in teacher meetings, but also in small conversations in the hallways and classrooms.




Because Don was secure he was able to help me feel secure in my new position and in myself as a person. Thus I was pretty effective in my work, even if I do say so myself. I felt comfortable, motivated, happy to be there – even on cold snowy winter days with bus duty ahead of me. Because I felt secure in what I did I was able to apply for a dream position (and get it) in snowy Switzerland.


As it is and cold in Minnesota at this moment, I think Don may be ice fishing. I hope, whatever he is up to, that it is pleasant and uplifting, as I remember him to be.


Who was your best boss and why? Write me your answers.

May you lead with authenticity and emotional intelligence this week!


Patricia Jehle

Jehle Coaching






[1] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/can-you-fix-colleagues-who-arent-self-aware-daniel-goleman


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