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Auburn Technical Assistance Center (ATAC)

Despite what Machiavelli said, great leaders don't have to be feared. They don't even have to be loved.

According to the co-founder of Google's career mentoring program, they just have to listen.

Jenny Blake, a career strategist who has helped more than 1,000 people at Google advance at work, says that trying to solve a problem immediately can sometimes do more harm than good.

"One of the biggest mistakes that I see managers making is immediately jumping in to give advice or trying to troubleshoot in the middle of a career conversation," Blake says, "rather than really [asking] open ended questions."

According to Blake, 75 percent of complicated or tough conversations should be listening and only 25 percent should be giving advice.

"Great leaders and managers make listening a priority," Blake tells CNBC. "Not just any listening, active listening." Like Ron Swanson from NBC's "Parks and Recreation," who often offers just the right amount of sage advice after lending a sympathetic ear.

By taking a step back and listening, you get a better sense of the problem. You can then make better decisions.

To get a better sense of what your team members need, Blake recommends asking these open ended questions in one-on-one meetings:

  • What's working best in your role?
  • What strengths are you most excited about developing?
  • When do you feel most in the zone?

An independent survey of 3,100 workers, ranging from junior employees to CEOs, found 5 traits that great leaders embrace to foster a culture of respect and motivation.

Listening, Blake says, is one of the easiest ways to foster that type of environment.

For U.S. workers, inspiring bosses share five traits. A great boss:

5. Allows employees to save face in difficult situations

Most people know when they've made a mistake, and no one likes to be humiliated.

Some 60 percent of U.S. respondents say that great bosses give employees who have made a mistake or feel embarrassed the chance to recover and do better moving forward.

4. Acknowledges his or her own shortfalls before criticizing

Nobody's perfect, and employees like bosses who admit that they themselves are not perfect.

Sixty-eight percent of workers said they are motivated by supervisors who are bold enough to recognize their own shortcomings and who don't jump to criticize others.

3. Recognizes improved performance

When hard work finally does pay off, workers say that receiving a boss's recognition makes a real difference to them.

Some 72 percent of respondents say this is one of the most important traits a boss could have.

2. Gives praise and appreciation

Being called into your supervisor's office shouldn't always be a bad thing.

Great bosses praise and express appreciation for an employee's work, according to 74 percent of respondents.

1. Encourages improvement

A little kindness at work goes a long way. Nearly 80 percent of those polled say that inspiring leaders encourage and help employees improve.

"Effective leaders create an environment that is safe for employees, where they feel accepted and respected," the report says, in summary. "Those leaders listen, value their employees' contribution, and respect their opinions."

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