The difference between a boss and a leader (it’s crucial to know)

Shannon Coward

Have you ever had a superior who was undeniably a boss? They stomp around the office, demanding everything under the sun, while you and your co-workers try to hide without being noticed. Their presence makes for a pretty awful office environment, which is why it’s so important to know the difference between being a leader and a boss and how this can impact your business venture. But where do you even start? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back with this list of key differences between the boss and the leader.

A boss focuses on “I”, a leader focuses on “us”

A boss will talk in terms of “I”, always going on about how they contribute to the company and how successful they are. Whether what they’re saying is true or not, talking like this can come across as extremely narcissistic and isn’t likely to inspire excellence in their underlings. A leader, on the other hand, is all about the “us”, emphasising how the collective efforts of the team is the reason for the businesses’ success. I don’t know about you, but I’d personally be more inclined to work harder for a leader who actually acknowledges how my work impacts positively on the business.

A boss relies on authority, a leader utilises the trust of their employees

A boss only remains a boss because their position in the hierarchy of the company dictates they should be. There's no personal basis for their position, making their throne a fragile one. A leader is in that position because employees trust that they’ll make the right decision for everybody in the team. Trust and communication is key for any successful workplace, because fostering positive interpersonal relationships can help solve problems quicker. It can also lead to some pretty awesome collaborative efforts if you inspire the right people to talk to each other. In rocky times, employees will look to a leader first for guidance, so the example they set is far more important than the dictations of a boss nobody really believes in.

A boss pushes employees to the max, a leader coaches them into their full potential

We’ve all had or know someone with a boss who won’t take no for an answer – but in the worst possible way. Think less subtle encouragement and more not actually giving a damn about the mental-state or workload of the employee they are pushing. Leaders, on the flip side, are all about gently pushing employees because they know they can do better in some aspects, but they also understand that breaking limits takes time and patience. While it’s easy to confuse a leader with a boss when it comes to this aspect, just remember that a leader will always have best interests at heart. A boss, well, they just want you to really earn your next pay check.

A boss knows how it’s done, a leader shows how it’s done

A boss clearly knows how to do their job, but they won’t show you how you can get to where they are. A leader is willing to show you exactly that and more. Leaders want you to grow both professionally and personally so you can benefit the company with your expanding knowledge. As a result they’re willing to impart their own skillset and knowledge onto you, so you can own it and work it to your advantage. Think of a leader as your favourite teacher or mentor, who wanted you to succeed no matter what. They’re not doing it because they have to do, they do it because the pleasure of seeing somebody they fostered flourish is worth every extra minute they spend helping out.

Shannon Coward

Shannon Coward is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who spent her formative years surrounded by small business owners. In her free time she bumbles her way around the globe, which you can find evidence of on Instagram, @ofthosewhowander. 

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