You’re in a tough spot as a boss. On the one hand, you have to exude sufficient authority that your employees accept your directives, on the other hand, you have to be sufficiently user-friendly that employees are willing to tell you the truth of what they see and how they see it.
There’s a reason why there are couches and chairs in the Oval Office, in addition to the President’s desk. The President sitting behind his (or one day, her?) desk conveys a message of relative separateness: “I’m over here, you’re over there.” When the President sits at a couch or chair, with the guest sitting similarly, the message is one of working things out together.
When it’s important that your employees experience you as in “together” mode, make sure your body language is congruent with that message. For example, Detert and Burris suggest: “Keeping your arms at your side (rather than crossing them in front of you), lowering your voice, dressing less formally, and even smiling can make people more likely to share their thoughts with you. So can behavioral cues, such as sitting at the same tables as everyone else at lunch and not being the first to articulate a point of view at meetings.”
Gone are the days of “He/She Who Must Be Obeyed”! For all you may regret that, adopting an employee-friendly manner will go a long way towards gaining your employees’ trust, and with that, their best work.