The words “leader” and “boss” may have pretty similar dictionary definitions—but in the business world, their practical distinctions are crucial.
Just think about their connotations. Most of us think of a boss as someone who makes demands, yells at us when we screw up, and ultimately has the power to fire us at will. A leader, meanwhile, is someone who inspires us, coaches us, rallies the team, and helps everybody move forward.
So which are you? Consider some of the following:
1. Leaders actually lead.
By contrast, a boss rules, governs, and dictates. A boss may sit in his office all day hammering out policies and telling everyone else what to do—but a leader is right there in the fray with the rest of the team, guiding everyone in the right direction.
2. Leaders listen.
A boss is not known for his acceptance of feedback or his openness toward collaboration. By contrast, a leader wants to hear what her team members have to say and to engage them in the decision-making process.
3. Leaders empower.
A boss might throw his employees into a project without much training or guidance—leaving them fearful and insecure. A great leader, meanwhile, does everything to prepare her team members, and to instill them with confidence in their own abilities and in the abilities of the team.
4. Bosses intimidate.
Leaders know better than to use fear as a tool for managing their team members.
5. Bosses think of themselves as above the other employees.
A leader, meanwhile, is open to constructive feedback from team members, and knows that there is always more she can learn—even from lower ranking employees!
6. Bosses yell at people.
Leaders ensure that their feedback is constructive and action-oriented—and that it is offered in private, not in front of the whole team.
7. Bosses focus on hierarchies, i.e., “I’m above you and I tell you what to do.”
Leaders focus on relationships, i.e., “How can we improve and move forward together?”
The difference, as you can see, is all the difference. So again: Which are you—a boss or a leader?