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Key Differences Between a Leader and a Boss

Every team has a boss, but not always a leader. Being a boss can be easy. But becoming a leader takes thought and effort. Here are a few key differences between a leader and a boss:

Telling vs. Showing

Managers or bosses are quick to assign tasks or projects to their team members. But once the assigning is over, they typically just step back and leave employees to it. If a team member has a question, a boss will often tell them what to do rather than show them. In short, bosses take control of the situation.

Great leaders instead typically see this as a teaching opportunity. A leader not only gives their team direction, but they will participate to ensure that they’re leading by example. If a team member is unsure how to do something, a leader will guide them through the process making sure they understand how to accomplish the task and why. The ability to guide is a crucial quality to have if you want to be in a managing position.

"I" vs. "We"

Bosses commonly use “I” phrases, often because the focus is on their own goals, rather than the goals of the company as a whole. Those with the “boss” mentality are typically thinking about what they want to achieve individually.

Leaders focus on using “we” phrases: including themselves in the growth process. They’ll participate in a brainstorming session, assist with projects big and small, and will make sure everything is delegated equally. Leaders see themselves as a member of a team, not apart from it. 

Distance vs. Compassion

Bosses are there to do their job. They clock in, manage their team, get their work done, and then clock out. There’s a lack of connection on a deeper level, both in work and personal relations. 

Leaders, on the other hand, want to see their coworkers succeed. Whether that’s with their position in the company, their overall career, or their personal skills, a great leader will help their team achieve the goals they’ve set.

Leaders also genuinely care about how their employees are doing and want nothing but growth and success for them. A good leader knows that a strong team can produce better work together than a strong individual can alone. 

Authoritative vs. Encouraging

We’ve all experienced an authoritative boss before. They commonly micromanage and prefer to control all the little details to ensure everything gets done the way they see fit. Bosses who take on the authoritative mindset don’t always see their employees as teammates; they see them as workers who are supposed to do as they say.  

Leaders are more trusting, empowering, and open to new ways of accomplishing tasks. They know that everyone was hired at the company for a reason and trust that each individual knows what they’re doing -- and if they don’t, a good leader will be there to guide them. Leaders differ from bosses in that they don’t want their coworkers unhappy or unmotivated on the job. Instead, leaders will inspire enthusiasm among their team even during challenging times. 

Are you a leader or a boss?

We would love to find out where you stand between a leader and a boss. Write us to let us know!

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