7 Things Truly Exceptional Bosses Say to Their Team That Mediocre Bosses Don’t

Woman on video call


Profile Picture
May 24, 2024 at 10:50PM UTC

We've all experienced the difference between an OK boss and a truly great one. But when you're the one in the driver's seat, it can be difficult to know if your everyday habits are building the kind of leadership you hope they are building. 

So much of strong leadership happens in the day in and day out of leading a team, and especially in the conversations you're having. These are seven phrases exceptional leaders naturally fit into chats with their team. If you're using these words, you're on the right track. If you're not, here's a case for adopting each and every one of them. 

1. "I have total confidence in you." 

Mediocre leaders micromanage and worry about every step of executing their grand strategy. Great leaders trust their team to take a strategy and run with it. They also communicate this trust — and boost their team's morale in the process. 

2. "This was great work." 

Mediocre leaders are glad when good work is done and communicate a team members strengths to them when it's necessary — maybe during a review or a team meeting when they're delegating new tasks. But great leaders are constantly telling their team when a job is well done. Not only does it reinforce good behavior, it also builds camaraderie and boosts the direct report's confidence.

3. "I want to play to your strengths."

Mediocre leaders see direct reports as interchangeable. Great leaders not only know their direct reports' strengths and play to them, but also include their direct report in this process. The explain the strengths they see and how they see those strengths playing into day-to-day responsibilities and projects. Then, they ask their direct report for feedback on these observations and decisions. 

4. "What questions do you have?"

Mediocre leaders leave their doors open for questions, but great leaders don't just accept questions — they encourage them. Rather than putting the burden on their direct reports to come forward with uncertainties, they make asking questions the norm in everyday conversations.

5. "What can I do better next time to support you?"

Mediocre bosses provide support to their teams based on what they think is best and assume their support was sufficient if a task is completed effectively. Better bosses open a constant feedback loop to tailor their support to each direct report and to each task. 

6. "What do you think?"

Mediocre leaders assume their bird's-eye view knows best and give commands, and think someone will speak up if they're making a bad choice. Great leaders know that different perspectives are necessary in strong decision making and provide space for their direct reports to use their voices rather than waiting for them to speak up. 

7. "This is what we're accomplishing here."

Mediocre leaders often forget to communicate the "why" behind their team's work. Great leaders are always tying back daily tasks and projects to the team's overall goals — and keep the team updated on their progress.

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always