How to Be a Great Boss: What 10 Years of Research Taught Google

There’s a famous quote that says:

“People leave managers, not companies.”

But what makes people want to leave a manager in the first place? And if you’re leading a team, what qualities can make you a better boss?

In 2008, Google set out to answer these questions in an operation code-named: Project Oxygen.

Here are the ten signs of a great boss, according to Google…and some tips on how you can develop them.

(You can also read what Google discovered about what makes a great team in another project code-named “Aristotle.”)

A good coach.

Good managers don’t solve every problem for their team.

Instead, they use problems as teaching moments. They guide, share insights, and let team members gain valuable experience along the way.

Empowers the team.

A good team lead gives people freedom: freedom to explore new ideas, to experiment, to develop their own working style.

And they make sure people have the tools and flexibility they need to do their jobs.

Creates an inclusive team environment.

Great managers build trust and psychological safety.

That’s a fancy way of saying teammates feel safe to take risks, admit a mistake, ask a question, or offer a new idea.

Productive and results-oriented.

The best managers make those around them better. They realize what their teams are capable of, then do their best to help them realize their potential.

Good communicator.

Great managers:

  • listen first
  • are transparent
  • praise sincerely and specifically
  • provide constructive feedback—framing it in a way that’s easy to accept and learn from.

Help develop their teammates’ careers.

Great managers are invested in team members as people and provide career path options, realizing not everyone wants to follow the same road.

Then, they help their people reach their goals.

Clear vision and strategy.

Great managers know where they’re going…and they make sure the whole team knows, too.

They communicate “scope”: what’s needed to get a job done, and what’s expected of each team member.

Possess key technical skills.

They understand the work they oversee, and take time to get familiar with the challenges of their team. This earns them respect.


They see the big picture, and work for the good of the company as a whole.

Take the lead.

They set the example, make tough decisions, and make sure everyone understands the reasons behind those decisions. Then, they commit to following through.

As Google CEO Sundar Pichai put it: “Leadership is decision making. Leadership is moving things forward.”

Of course, identifying what makes a great boss is only the first part. But if you can find and train managers in your company to do these ten things, you’ll help your people reach their full potential.


YouTube video player

Related articles

Get a quick glance of what our readers like the most
Image by Michael Tipton

After Winning the NBA Finals, Boston Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla Desperately Wanted to Do 1 Thing. It’s a Brilliant Lesson in Emotional Intelligence

In his NBA Finals post game comments, Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla gives a case study in how to build an emotionally intelligent culture.

The fisherman story: A humble fisherman peacefully catches fish

The Fisherman Story: How to Live Intentionally

Why You Over Explain—and How to Stop (Using Just 6 Words)

How to Be a Great Boss: What 10 Years of Research Taught Google

Google spent the past 10 years studying the habits of effective managers. You can learn a lot from its conclusions.

How to Build a Successful Team: What Years of Research Taught Google

How to Create a Remote Work Policy: Start With These Two Sentences

tom hanks

Tom Hanks Drops Some Wisdom About Emotional Intelligence

Womans fitness captured in real life and in artistic rendition.

Emotional Intelligence in Real Life

Female employees who make mistakes are scolded and shouted at by angry bosses or co-workers.

A Case Study in EQ & How to Get the Most out of Feedback

Watching television

Lessons From The World of Sports

Raise your EQ.
One week at a time.

Join a community of tens of thousands building their emotional intelligence with EQ Applied.

Join the weekly newsletter
You really make the concepts very easy to understand.
You’ve helped me in so many ways.
Really practical advice delivered in a simple form.
I feel like I just had a psychologist appointment. Thank you!
This is exactly what I needed at this point in my life.
Your EQ Rules of life have helped in more ways than I expected.
The language you chose to explain EQ was simple and clear, which made it understandable.
As a social worker I really found this to be helpful.
I have adult ADHD, so these tips are amazing for people like me, for time management.
I especially appreciate your heart centered approach.
I enjoy every lesson.
Really helpful advice & lovely writing style, not to mention perfect timing.
I truly look forward to each email.
The simplicity and reality of the rules fit in with any stage of life.
Loving your course. Wish I did this 30 years ago.
Your emails are on my "open first" list. Excellent advice and insights.
So inspiring, encouraging, and educational.
I think this lesson has definitely made me a better person today.
Truly life-changing!
Your emails are the basis for conversations I have with my son and nephew.
Thanks for being real, legit, and genuine. Rare qualities.
I absolutely love this.
Sometimes you are better than my therapist.