People appreciate having a good boss because so many are subpar. Most workers who have held a few jobs have experienced a mean boss, an incompetent one, and plenty who are just fine.

If you find yourself in charge, it's up to you to decide what type of boss you want to be. That doesn't mean striving to be well-liked. Sometimes the top person has to make unpleasant decisions or deliver news that people don't want to hear.

Being the best boss possible, however, involves working to improve as both a manager and a listener, and being self-aware. You need not only to tell people what to do and make business decisions, but also to be able to admit mistakes and correct course.

Following these four rules will make you a better boss. They'll also help you grade and adjust your own behavior.

A woman stands at the head of the table gtalking to other people.

A good boss leads by example. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Never be above work

While the CEO of a huge company may have very limited opportunity to do the work of the average employee, that's not true at smaller or even medium-sized businesses.

If you expect your employees to drop what they are doing to help a customer or answer the phone, you need to lead by example. Pitch in where appropriate, and show your staff that while you have a busy plate, you're not above the work you expect them to do.

2. Have an open door

Give employees a clear path to talk to you. That might mean having office hours, or scheduling informal coffee events where anyone can approach you. If you're busy and can't talk, make sure you schedule a meeting with someone who wants a little of your time.

3. Never hold people back

Back when I was the editor of small community newspapers, I would tell young hires that after about a year I expected them to try to move on. If they weren't ready I would tell them, but if they were, I'd try to find them a job at a bigger paper in the company. If I couldn't, I would actively aid their search for a next-step position by leveraging my own connections.

That meant that often I lost good employees sooner than I might have. That hurt, but in many cases the people who left went on to bigger things; holding them back to make my life easier would've been selfish.

4. Be the boss

As the boss, you have to remember that you are the person who has to make key decisions. Solicit input and value what people have to say, but remember that you need to act decisively. Many bosses pass the buck or simply don't make clear choices. Doing that can damage your business and cause you to lose the respect of your team.

Work on it

Few people are natural-born bosses. If you find yourself in charge, remember that getting to the top of the mountain is only one step in a longer journey. Examine your actions and talk about how you handle work situations with mentors and friends who have experienced similar situations.

Being the best boss means constantly improving. The same approach won't work with everyone so it's up to you to learn how to maximize the potential of each team member and recognize when to adjust your approach accordingly.