Recently I was talking to someone who works in HR about how I recently left my job to go freelance. By way of explanation I said "Well, my boss left, and after that ... you know." (Eloquent!) Of course, she did know; she says she hears this all the time in her work. It got me thinking about why it was that I loved S. so much. (We're still in touch, as she is now my editor's boss over at my About site, but we don't talk every day anymore.)
First, she was a great communicator. Clear, constructive, funny, friendly, open. Another editor I once worked for would return copy with the words "pls fix" scrawled at random in the margin (fix what?!). Not S.; she could tell you just what you needed to do, in a way that made you feel quite capable of doing it. She would also share everything she could with us about what was going on elsewhere in the company. While she was discreet when she needed to be, she didn't see any value in withholding information just to bolster her authority.
She was also a great protector. She shielded her staff from pointless bureaucracy, ugly people, useless meetings, and waste-of-time tasks. When she left ... oy. Then we really knew just how much she'd done for us.
Not surprisingly, S. was motivating. Because it was so clear she cared about us (see items 1 and 2 above), we naturally wanted to please her. She made it easy by offering plenty of support and trust--like embracing my idea to telecommute from 1000 miles away. She knew how to praise our successes and gently help us fix our mistakes.
Lastly, she could drink me under the table any day of the week. I miss that lady.