Leader vs Boss: 4 key differences that make you a better leader

Marianne Slotboom
Mar 30, 2022

In this article, we will describe 4 important differences between a leader vs boss and we will help you identify ways to develop behavior that will make you a better leader for your team, a person who inspires and gets results along the way. You will learn how to be a good leader and at the same time get the results that the “boss” side of you wants.

The words “leader” and “boss” are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. A boss is a specific title and position that gives a person power over others. A boss manages the team members, and is often thought of as directing and supervising.

Leaders, on the other hand, tend to provide support, motivate their people and help them reach their goals. They focus more on developing the skills needed to achieve objectives, rather than just focusing on the result.

Leaders also reflect on their leadership behaviors on a regular basis with the aim to continue growing. The fact that you are reading this article, already indicates your interest in improving your leadership skills.

Leader vs Boss: A leader motivates, a boss dominates

Have you ever had a micromanager? You will remember that they always seem to be telling you what to do and want to control every detail. This in fact is a typical boss, they talk more than they listen, dictate the tasks, give orders, and control the result.

Leaders know that in today’s world, businesses must be agile to succeed long-term. They encourage teamwork, creating strong teams and a thriving culture of innovation. They give people the opportunity to do things their way, give trust and encourage autonomy with their leadership style. In other words, they help people become more confident and grow in their role.

Leader vs Boss: A leader has an open mind, a boss knows it all

A boss knows best, and takes an approach of telling people what to do, that leaves little room for debate or experimentation. Sometimes with good intentions, because they don’t want their team members to make the same mistakes they made. But at the same time they forget to listen to new ideas.

Leaders are not only open to new ideas, they actively seek them out. They listen, hear interesting takes from others and are willing to try new things as they come up. This helps foster a more creative work environment for everyone. It also helps the entire team become better at the work they do, which leads to more productivity and better results.

Leader vs Boss
A leader empowers, a boss controls

Leader vs Boss: A leader empowers, a boss controls

A boss sets up control systems to make sure team members don’t make mistakes and follow the instructions.

Leaders set up processes and agreements that make it easy for team members to make decisions on their own with minimal supervision. This can relate to tasks, projects and even customer relations. With proper communication, leaders make it easy for their team to have a certain level of autonomy no matter what they're working on.

Leader vs Boss: A leader has a vision, a boss wants profits

Profits are important – no business can succeed without them. But bosses put profits over people. This actually creates less success in the long run, because without motivated employees, they won’t be able to create enthusiastic and satisfied customers. And by putting the focus on the outcome and not the journey, bosses miss essential lessons along the way.

Leaders are ultimately driven not by profits and processes, but by a powerful vision. They want to contribute to the world, create something new and make a difference in people’s lives. They’re just as interested in the journey as they are in the destination. Leaders know that when they put people first and live their vision, profits come naturally.

Are you a leader or a boss?

Today's competitive marketplace demands that you produce extraordinary results with your team. Therefore, leadership is more important than being the boss.

Ask yourself these questions to discover whether you are a boss vs a leader:

  1. Do I give people the opportunity to do things their way?
  2. Do I do my best to make sure everyone’s voice is heard?
  3. Do I prioritize self-improvement and continuous growth in my team and for myself?
  4. Do I help employees learn from their mistakes?
  5. Do I encourage autonomy within my team?
  6. Do I have a clear vision on why we do the things?
  7. Do I actively look for untapped talent within my team?
  8. Do I help others fulfill their potential?

If you’ve answered ‘Yes’ to some or all of these questions, then you are indeed a leader. If not, examine the areas in which you answered ‘No’ and consider what you can improve on, based on what is described in the different areas. You as well can read more articles on our Insights Blog.

Both “bosses” and “leaders” might arrive at the same short term results. But the long-term results might look quite different. While bosses rely on themselves and their own innate ability to think for their team, leaders motivate their employees to think for themselves and make them grow. This gives sustainable and continuous development towards better performance, innovation and customer engagement.

Marianne Slotboom
The author
Marianne Slotboom

Marianne is a strategic partner and practical developer of human behavior that helps leaders, teams and organizations become more focused and effective, elevating their value to customers. In 2015, Marianne founded Yellow Training to answer the call for more inspirational and creative leadership in the modern workplace.

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