| 28 November, 2021 | 6 Min Read

Boss vs Leader: Which pronoun do you want to be called?

When it comes to creating a successful business, leadership is one of the most important skills that you can have. Complicated ventures or opening a new franchise, require leadership skills that go beyond basic supervision. When you look at boss vs. leader qualities, you usually find that a boss lacks certain qualities that make leaders so sought after. Contrary to popular belief, these two concepts are not at all the same.

Usually, this difference comes down to management styles and their general approach to work. A great leader can always draw the best from their team and focus on people, while a boss focuses more on task-related goals. While a task-oriented mindset is not always negative, it can be limiting to look at results at the expense of all else.

A boss vs. leader is also usually defined by their attitude towards their staff. Bosses tend to be impatient, dismissive, short-sighted, or self-serving when they deal with their teams. A true leader understands the bigger picture and views his team as an integral part of creating this vision.

This means that employee wellbeing is usually taken more seriously by leaders. Leaders, therefore, create a more supportive environment for staff. They understand that team satisfaction and employee input are vital for getting the best out of the workforce. Let’s look at some of the ways that this boss vs. leader divide plays out:

Grove HR - Differences between Boss and Leader

Leaders lead, Bosses control: 8 differences between a Boss and a Leader

1. Leaders lend a hand

One of the defining differences between a boss and a leader is that leaders never shy away from grunt work. Good leaders do not see themselves as above their staff. While a boss controls and supervises the whole team, a leader notices whenever an extra pair of hands is needed.

In most businesses with an excellent leader at the helm, you will find that the manager does more work than any of the employees. Leaders take responsibility for the success of their venture across all levels and don’t blame employees if work does not get done. Instead, a strong leader is both the supervisor of the team and an active team member. People are inspired and motivated by leaders who act in this manner. It also helps to build great working relationships and respect for one another.

2. A Leader influences, a Boss demands

Leaders draw out loyalty and dedication from their team. This enables them to build a workforce they can rely on to get tasks done and create success. It doesn’t matter whether you’re coordinating a restaurant service or a Firefly launch. They do this by positively influencing their staff rather than making demands.

Instead of ordering staff to get the task done by a specific time, a leader will open a dialogue about this task deadline and create options. A leader may hand in or support an urgent task for their team’s interest. This allows leaders to find a balance between allowing staff to work at their own pace and completing important tasks on time.

In contrast, bosses tend to be highly focused on their own authority. They focus on the result rather than the progress, and everything must be on track solely set by them. People see a boss simply command staff to carry out tasks and expect them to do exactly what they require.

Grove HR - boss vs leader


3. Leaders encourage feedback

The question of feedback brings us to another crucial point in the boss vs. leader debate. While bosses react badly to feedback, great leaders encourage and incorporate feedback into their business strategies and management techniques.

Bosses tend to dislike criticism and generally won’t tolerate it from staff.
This makes them seem unapproachable and can lead to staff feeling underappreciated. This approach also means that bosses often unfairly berate staff, even when staff tries to explain that the boss’s demands are unrealistic. Generally, this issue arises when it comes to meeting deadlines in tight timeframes or working with small budgets for large projects.

While leaders listen and see it as their responsibility to pay attention to staff, a boss expects blind obedience. This means that bosses take no accountability for staff failures. When staff is treated like this, they will not work towards improving the company's overall success but only grudgingly strive to meet the boss’s demands.

4. Bosses micromanage, Leaders delegate and trust

Leaders understand that to manage their employees optimally, they must have faith in their team. While a boss manages their employees by constantly looking over their shoulder and monitoring their every move, a leader knows when to step back. This makes employees feel valued and builds confidence among the team. When employees feel trusted, competent, and capable, they will behave responsibly and positively towards assigned tasks.

Many bosses slip into the trap of micromanaging staff. This often comes from a place of perfectionism and a lack of faith in employees. Some staff members will lose confidence in their own ability if their manager clearly doesn’t trust them. Others will feel that it is not worth trying hard if their efforts are not rewarded or valued.

5. Leaders focus on staff strengths

Leaders are confident in their abilities and want to see their employees succeed. They do not feel the need to criticize or undermine staff constantly, and they do not feel envious when other people are praised. Instead, a good leader inspires staff to follow a good example and celebrates staff’s victories.

Leaders also know how to help build employees’ skills. They can offer constructive criticism without belittling staff and encourage them to improve their weaknesses by focusing on their strengths. They are also not above learning from their staff and can appreciate when employees have skills to teach them.

Grove HR - boss vs leader - John Maxwell quote

Unlike leaders, bosses are known as perfectionists, so they are more likely to underestimate one’s strengths. Therefore, it is impossible for a team to look perfect in their boss’s eyes in every aspect of work. Bosses have a very high standard at work, but they may lack the sense of coordination and collaboration in improving the whole team’s assignments.

6. Bosses delegate without consideration

Sometimes bosses do not micromanage but delegate too much. They essentially remove themselves from work to simply oversee. They may also delegate inappropriately, giving people tasks that are outside of their skillset.

Good leaders put thought into dividing up tasks. They know their employees’ strengths and weaknesses and strategically play to these. They also do not see their teams as separate from themselves or the aims of the business. Instead, they view their team’s overall performance as a reflection of themselves and their performance. Therefore, they work to make everything run smoothly and ensure that every team member is in the best role for their skills.

7. Leaders create a supportive work environment

Leaders fundamentally view their employees as rounded individuals. They acknowledge that their employees have lives outside of work and that work must sometimes take precedence. Instead, leaders focus on creating a healthy balance for staff and building a supportive work environment.

Leaders are aware that creating a workplace where employees are scared to voice their demands is counterproductive. An employee’s productivity will suffer if that individual is suffering from a great deal of personal stress. However, if employees are confident enough to communicate their wants to upper management, they are more likely to get what they want. Sometimes both sides may have to compromise in this process, but influential leaders give their employees a sense of being heard and supported.

A boss, in contrast, usually demands that staff always prioritize work and task deadlines, even if circumstances make this unrealistic or unfair. Working under a boss may drive employees to the feeling of being unvalued.

8. Leaders implement sensible rules

Leaders are well-known for only implementing or sticking rigidly to rules that make sense. They remain adaptable and know when to bend the rules or change procedures in order to make work more practical or productive. On the other hand, bosses may stick to the procedure pedantically, even when it is not optimal.

Eventually, a boss will not care if employees don’t understand a rule and will, instead, demand they follow it blindly. This can cause problems throughout your organization as employees are far more likely to respect a rule that makes sense to them. They may also have valid criticisms about certain rules holding up productivity – criticism that a bad boss will fail to take on board.

Everyone's choice is to become a leader or a boss!

When it comes to the boss vs. leader debate, leaders predominantly come out on top. Organizations with a strong leader at the helm have a track record of success and constantly adapt to changing expectations. Bad bosses, however, will make work harder for everyone and generally will not inspire or motivate their team.

Let’s keep this quote in your mind if you are still confused about your leadership.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more & become more, you are a leader” - John Q. Adams.

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