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Understanding the Distinction: Boss vs. Leader

Boss Vs leader

When you’re caught up in the day-to-day routines and practices of a workplace, it can be hard to identify the specifics of different roles within a company and how they are intended to operate. Every role is important and has its place, but its function has to have a purpose. Two of those roles that often get confused as being one and the same are a leader vs boss – believe it or not, there’s a very intentional distinction that impacts heavily on how successful a business is. In this article, we’ll explain the difference between the two and why it’s crucial that you understand it.

Who Is the Boss?

We’ve all probably used the phrase “bossy” to describe someone that appears to be pushing us around or dominating a certain conversation or activity, and unfortunately, it’s not just during our years as a child – it very much flows into our work life as an adult. It’s a word that’s often used to describe an attitude, but in the working world, it’s most commonly used to describe the role of the person in charge of a company or organization, or a particular group – where the boss controls rather than guides.

Is It More Important to Be a Leader than a “Boss”?

Another experience we are all likely to be able to relate to is having a “bad boss”, and when you’re going through it, it truly feels like nothing can be worse. Whether it’s because they have an authority complex, aren’t hands-on enough, or simply aren’t prepared to do the job, it makes an environment where we spend so much of our time a really unpleasant place to be.

Being a boss is about managing employees – many people aren’t equipped to do that. We’d argue that being a good leader is far more important, mainly because successful leaders are all about setting a positive example and encouraging and empowering others to follow it. Business management isn’t just about simply telling people what to do.

Key Differences Between a Boss and Leader

There are plenty of key differences when it comes to defining what a boss is and what great leaders are. Essentially, it comes down to a person’s ability to support their team to achieve collective goals based on the values and beliefs of a company, versus limiting them and micromanaging.

Leadership Skills

Leading is the polar opposite of demanding. A true leader knows what kind of influence they want to have on their staff, what their mission is, and how they’re going to motivate and inspire others to want to be a part of a shared vision for the future success of a company or organization.

Management Styles

Again, while a boss is more likely to tell people what to do and shy away when it comes to collaboration and collective goal achievement, a leader sets the standard for those who look up to them and then allows them to contribute their ideas and ways of doing things.

Delegation of Authority

In a position of authority, a boss can at times come across as entitled and niglective of what other people can offer to a business’s strategy, a leader generally believes that when team members have autonomy over their work responsibilities, their ability to contribute ideas and the way in which they work. The result of this is that they often feel more willing to work towards a common goal because those elements of respect and trust have been established between both parties. Leaders do more than just delegate tasks.

Communication Styles

A boss can often come across as harsh and makes their authority very clear in the way they communicate. While a boss is more likely to say things like, “Do this now” or “I need this by Friday, no excuses”, and not allow for any input from their staff, a leader is more conversational and works with their staff based on what’s realistic, as well as the time and resources available to them. Instead of scolding them for mistakes, a leader listens, uses communication skills, looks at ways to help their team to achieve their goals, and offers constructive criticism.

Goal Achievement Strategies

There’s nothing worse than the clock ticking over to 16:00 at the end of the working week and your boss coming over to tell you they need a task done by the end of the day. Most of the time, it might not even be possible, but it’s almost always unfair. A leader works with their staff to identify, develop and support business goals in a way that is achievable.

They also help by monitoring those goals and checking in to ensure that their team has everything they need in order to be able to get it done. Good leadership and effective leadership happen when the personal goals of a leader are in alignment with the goals that their staff have for the business, success naturally follows. As they say, teamwork makes the dream work.

Benefits of Being a Leader Over a Boss

Employee Empowerment & Engagement

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, the best leaders and most effective leaders empower staff, as well as engage and support them to achieve their personal and collective goals for the business. This approach is far more effective than limiting them to what is ‘expected’ of them.

Improved Morale and Productivity

When a team feels valued, listened to, allowed space to contribute, and knows that someone has their back, the benefits are huge. When leaders lead, and treat those they lead with respect, it creates a positive environment where all can thrive.

Long-Term Success for the Organization

Short-term goals won’t achieve long-term success. In fact, it’s impossible. If you want your staff to be as passionate about the business or organization as you are, they need to feel as if they have a role to play in its success. Welcoming ideas, thoughts and opinions on how a common goal can be achieved, and then supporting them to do that is the best, and quite frankly, the only way to guarantee a successful and sustainable future.

Can a Boss Still Be a Leader?

In some instances, it’s a debatable topic. But if a boss has the ability and willingness to be a leader, it can totally shift the dynamic of a workplace, and ultimately, it determines whether it will be successful or not. That’s how a good boss is defined. While work is an essential part of any economy and acts as a vehicle for people to attain freedom and quality of life, nobody wants to feel as though their work isn’t fulfilling or doesn’t mean anything.

Whether you’re the head of a company or the spokesperson for a group, knowing how to be a leader – from establishing a company or an organization’s beliefs and values to convincing others that they want to be a part of its future success – makes all the difference.


Aish Hinton

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