The differences between a boss and a leader

Fri, 14/07/2017 - 11:31

The phrase “Like a boss” is often used to mean you have a nice flashy office and complete authority. But being a boss doesn't automatically make you a good leader. Being a leader means more than just bossing people around and throwing around the weight of your title.

There are many differences between a boss and a leader, all of which will be touched on in this article. The main difference is that a boss’ goal is to get things done and a leader’s goal is about more than that. It’s about empowerment and motivating the team.

The main differences between a boss and a leader 

A leader is often the person who takes a step back to bring out the best in their team, while a boss will always be at the centre of attention. And a boss can often provide good or bad leadership to their team, whereas a leader will never be able to be a bad boss.

A boss is often the delegator, where a leader is the person who will roll up their sleeves and jump right in. You will find that a boss is often the person taking credit for efforts that were not theirs. A leader, on the other hand, is the person who will give credit where credit is due while celebrating with the team.

A leader is compassionate, and a boss is impersonal. For a boss it is ALWAYS about “I”, a leader, however, is all about the team as a whole. Leaders are interested in developing their team members, and bosses use more of a “use and abuse” method. Leaders strive towards earning respect, and bosses inspire fear.

Bosses tend to focus more so on process whereas leaders focus more on the people and empowering them.

Bosses are known for being the “Boss”, where a leader is more so they know to be your colleague. Leaders think long term, trust their employees and delegate whenever they can, while bosses think short term and micromanage.

Why being a leader trumps being a boss

Being a leader has proven to be a more effective management style than being a boss. Studies done by Emma Seppala as part of the Harvard Business Review showed that being a hard, tough and distant leader adds additional stress to employees. This has been proven to be harmful in the workplace and leads to a higher staff turnaround. 

On the flip side of the coin, research has shown that being a compassionate leader can be very beneficial for both the employees and the business. Additional research done by Amy Cuddy from Harvard Business School found that compassionate and warm leaders tend to earn their employee’s trust very easily. This then indirectly leads to more effective and productive employees. Beyond this, it has been noted that a leader’s good attitude spreads among the team. This, in turn, encourages more civil and productive team members.

Overall, there are numerous studies that show that being a leader is more beneficial as employees will feel more committed and loyal to the business. Employees working for leaders have shown to be more likely to help and assist their co-workers, treat customers with a healthier attitude and have lower stress levels. All of which ultimately leads to a healthier business environment.

To end off, a quote from Seppala: “Creating a leadership model of trust and mutual cooperation may help create a culture that is happier, in which employees help each other, and [as a consequence] become more productive in the long run." 


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