Best bosses we ever had inspired, challenged and cared, say South Florida CEOs

This week’s question to the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: Describe the best boss you ever had, and tell us what traits he or she had that led to your “best” rating?

I had a great boss at one of the banks I worked for in California. He was this big “good-ole boy” Texan with an imposing stature. He set the rules upfront on what he expected, gave you wide berth to do your job and always had your back, even when you stumbled. His leadership style produced results and made you happy to work harder than you ever had in your life.

Steven N. Adkins, president and CEO, Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

The best boss I ever had was a great listener. He took the time to understand my challenges, and he would ask me questions to help me discover on my own how to address them. He gave me confidence even when I was unsure of myself. He was very much a “teacher” and he took the time to educate me even when it was not needed to perform my job. Most important, he genuinely cared about me and my success.

Ron Antevy, president and CEO, e-Builder

My best boss was preoccupied with the careers of those who worked for her, not her own, and didn’t want followers, but leaders. She would say, “I owe you two things: a stable support for you to stand on, and clear expectations you can reach for,” a credo of leadership I live by now.

Maria Arizmendi, behavior analyst and president, Progressive Behavioral Science

My father, Arthur Breakstone, was the best boss I ever had. He started our business in 1958 and I joined him right out of college. He taught me how to understand the individual gifts of everyone in the company and to create a strong team by bringing people on board with diverse talents. My father understood the importance of having “the right person in the right position.” This philosophy has guided how I operate BTI Partners.

Noah Breakstone, founder and managing partner, BTI Partners

As a young associate, I had a number of bosses who made suggestions as to ways in which I could enhance my effectiveness, and who provided opportunities to work on difficult projects that provided good learning opportunities.

Bowman Brown, partner and chairman of the Executive Committee and the Financial Services Practice Group of Shutts & Bowen

He was one of my last bosses. What I liked most about him is that he treated me in a very personal way. I mean, he understood that in your life there can be certain situations like a divorce, missing someone that you love, or taking care of your children… that really affects your performance at work, and instead of punishing you for that situation, he approached people personally and showed them his support. Those kind of “human bosses” are only seen once in a blue moon.

Ismael El-Qudsi, CEO, Internet República/SocialPubli.com

The best boss I had explained why they were giving an assignment instead of only explaining what the assignment was. As a law clerk, I was assigned legal research assignments by my supervising attorney. When they explained why they needed the research, I felt like I was part of the team instead of just a support staff. It also allowed me to do a better job. I was able to answer the legal question as well as explain how it would impact the case. I do that with my staff now. For example, by explaining how we use a potential client’s information as part of our marketing plan, our receptionist better understood the importance of her role and she did a better job a getting each caller’s full name, email address, and how they were referred to the firm.

Patricia Elizee, managing partner, Elizee Law Firm

I have been blessed to have several “best bosses” — but none were easy. The ones that challenged me, let me strike out, and then told me to try again — they’re my heroes.

Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

He was a mentor — someone who was willing to expose me to areas I had nothing to do with and expand my bandwidth. There was always time for questions and to be involved in decisions. I was encouraged to take risks, which had to be well thought out and planned. He recognized that there would be periodic failures, to which I was held accountable. He oftentimes used the line that “without failure, we would not succeed.”

Jeffrey Freimark, president and CEO, Miami Jewish Health

The best boss I ever had allowed me to utilize my strengths and encouraged me to shine. That boss developed a vision, provided marching orders and then got out of the way for work to be done.

James Haj, president and CEO, The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County

The best boss I ever had empowered me to get things done without micromanaging me, while always encouraging me to gain as much experience as possible before moving ahead. A good boss knows when to get out of the way and let other leaders lead. She/he has good listening skills and the ability to distill large quantities of information and make educated decisions that best guide the business. For me, the best bosses I’ve had also fulfilled the role of mentor, allowing me to stand on their shoulders.

George Hanbury, president and CEO, Nova Southeastern University

The individual was more a mentor and coach rather than a “boss.” He/she established clear and concise performance-based metrics that were true measures of success. And, he/she was an excellent communicator, verbally and in writing. Finally, there was a culture established that required a counterbalance between one’s personal and professional life.

Bob Hohenstein, president and CEO, Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and Exposition

My best boss was Stuart Miller, CEO of Lennar Corporation. He hired me to work with him shortly after business school. He gave me many special projects which were challenging and out of my comfort zone. He often came in to my office and said, “I know I didn’t hire you for this task but you can handle it.” As a result, I worked on so many interesting real estate projects which helped me grow in the industry and ultimately led me to the market leader position I currently have at CBRE today.

Arden Karson, senior managing director, CBRE

The best boss I’ve ever had qualifies as that because of his capacity to teach others. He took the time show me what it takes to become a restaurateur while stressing the difference between thinking as a manager and thinking as an entrepreneur. Last but not least, internally I felt that he truly believed in me. All these traits fueled my tenacity to deliver results and better myself as an individual.

Juan Carlos Marchan, COO, Centurion Restaurant Group

I worked at my grandfather’s company, Bernardo Garcia Funeral Homes. I would help support families, drive limousines, handle bookkeeping, and more. I loved that my grandfather dressed impeccably — he was always the best-dressed guy in the room and believed appearance was a reflection of a person’s identity. He was very driven to succeed and he taught me how important family was, how to be a leader, and how to conduct my business. He was dealing with people at the worst times of their lives and always showed humility and genuine care for people. He cared about his reputation and wanted to do the right thing. I always admired that about him.

David Martin, president and co-founder, Terra

I was fortunate to intern for Judge David Levy at the Third District Court of Appeals while attending law school at the University of Florida. Judge Levy had an encyclopedic knowledge of the law, and he was always thoughtful and deliberate in his decision-making. Judge Levy was stoic when he needed to be, but also approachable as a mentor. He’s since retired, but we’ve remained in touch over the years. I’m not a practicing attorney, but the lessons I learned while interning for Judge Levy have proven valuable in business.

Aabad Melwani, president, Rickenbacker Marina and managing principal, Marina PARC

The best boss I’ve ever had was my manager during my college internships at Motorola. What I admired most was his leadership. He always communicated a clear mission to the team, placed a tremendous amount of confidence in our ability to deliver, and gave us the right level of autonomy to achieve our objectives.

Kevin V. Michael, co-founder and managing partner, Invizio, LLC

My best boss gave me honest, constructive feedback and was genuinely interested in my development. Once I acted upon the advice given and demonstrated stellar performance, I earned great performance reviews and was given opportunities that stretched me to contribute on higher levels internally and within our community.

Avis Proctor, vice president of academic affairs and president, North Campus at Broward College

As a business owner, my goal has always been to be my own boss. However, as a child, I had two bosses — my mom and dad — who instilled in me the importance of both family and education. They get my vote on best bosses.

Matthew Rieger, president and CEO, Housing Trust Group

Don Soffer. From my first day at the company, he wanted me to be exposed to all aspects of the business and learn from everybody in the company. He taught me that everyone plays a vital role and has something to teach.

Jackie Soffer, co-chairman and CEO, Turnberry Associates

The best boss I ever had was a strong communicator. The most important traits that a great boss can possess is being able to communicate what is desired and expected with the confidence to give the freedom to execute.