Card, a political veteran long before he was tapped to be White House chief of staff, credits much of his ability to provide President Bush with guidance to lessons learned early in his career. Like all smart professionals working their way up the ladder, he spent his formative years taking mental notes on how to best serve the most demanding of bosses.

"I was very fortunate because I worked under every chief of staff that worked under President Reagan to President [H.W.] Bush," he says. "They were very different experiences under very different scenarios, so I had an opportunity to watch different personalities at different times manage unbelievably difficult challenges."

Taken under the wings of Republican Party power brokers like Jim Baker, Howard Baker, and John Sununu, Card had years to figure out which strategies were most effective when dealing with the president. "I learned good things and bad things from every one of my predecessors," he says. "And there were many more good things I learned than bad things, but I did try to avoid some of that which I saw didn't work with other chiefs of staff."

Each boss is different – their power, their personality, their responsibilities – so strategies for dealing with them ought to vary accordingly. Therefore, effective workers must adapt to the needs of their employer. As Card points out, the easiest way to know what adjustments need to be made is to watch and learn from those around you. Copy their successful strategies and avoid repeating others' mistakes.