Leaders vs. Bosses: Who is More Effective to Run the Business?

leader who listens will hear how to make an organization better through the team’s words.

leaders vs bosses
Graphics by Sayali Ranade

You may have heard the terms ‘leaders’ and ‘bosses.’ Sometimes, these two words are used interchangeably. But they significantly imply different meanings, especially in the business context. This distinction between leaders and bosses could determine the characteristics of an individual (or a group of individuals) about their overall competence and efficiency to run a business.

We will be distinguishing between leaders and bosses and which out of the two turn out to be the most effective in a business.

Leaders actively listen, whereas bosses only hear.

A boss is known for their unacceptance of feedback and being open towards collaboration. On the contrary, a leader wants to hear what their team members have to say and engage them in the decision-making process. As Tony Robbins says, “Where focus goes, energy flows.”

Leaders disrupt patterns in others to shift focus, obliterate limiting beliefs, and inspire intrinsic changes. They achieve this with their active listening skills. Leaders don’t just “hear” when others speak, they strive to understand. Being fully present, leaders never miss reading between the lines.

Strong leaders can effectively interrupt a person’s attitudes toward work. Subsequently, that person becomes more aware of their thinking, belief, and behavioral patterns. They can then choose to pause and shift to more empowering thoughts and behaviors. Besides, leaders also strive for change in their organizations. They aren’t known for just hearing complaints – they actively do something about them.

Leaders also utilize their resourcefulness to obtain the tools their team requires. They pick up on stress and discouragement and convert it with their teeming positivity and passion. Leaders care, and it shows.

Leaders empower their employees, whereas bosses dictate them.

Photo by Markus Spiske

A boss might toss their employees into a project without much guidance or training, thus rendering them fearful and insecure. Meanwhile, a great leader does everything to prepare their team members and instill confidence in their abilities through positive thinking. Leaders want their employees to be more successful than they are, whereas a boss always wants to be the boss.

This itself is a massive definition of a boss versus a leader. Much like a parent, a leader always wants their employees to perform better. A leader would even go as far as proudly making you ‘the boss’ and assist in developing your career plan to make it a reality.

Passion and purpose motivate the leaders. On the contrary, fear and reaction drive the bosses (and even bad leaders). A leader stays powered by passion and purpose, even during challenging times in business and transformation.

Leaders inspire their followers, whereas bosses intimidate them.

Leaders don’t use fear as a tool for managing their team members. One of the biggest delineators of the boss vs. leader is authority dependency. A boss depends on positional power to have an impact. A leader’s influence or authority is not dependent on power or position as it is based on inspiration.

Leaders believe in the company’s values and vision and live them out in their personal and professional lives, encouraging everyone else to follow their stride. They build trust with their team, thus fostering the spirit of creativity and innovation. Being honest and dependable at all times, leaders make sure to hold themselves accountable.

Leaders treat others as their equals, whereas bosses dominate.

A leader is open to constructive feedback from team members. They know that there is always more they can learn—even from their subordinates! Bosses who micromanage often do more than telling you what to do. They inform you how to do it when to do it, and whom to talk to regarding it. Bosses are not open to novel ideas and methods of doing things.

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann

Bosses pretend they know best, as they take an inflexible approach that leaves no room for experimentation and debate. They take the saying “It’s my way or the highway” very seriously. In today’s world, leaders are aware that businesses must be agile to achieve long-term success. They encourage creating strong teams, teamwork, and a thriving culture of innovation. Leaders, being open to new ideas, actively seek them out.

Leaders provide constructive criticism, whereas bosses yell.

Leaders offer feedback that is constructive and action-oriented to their employees, and they do so in private. Never in front of the whole team. By contrast, a micromanager tries to control every detail and seems always to be ordering their subordinates what to do and how to do it. This is typical behavior of a ‘boss.’ They often talk more than they listen, dictate tasks, give orders, and dish out criticism. Their authority comes from their position because, as your manager, they have control over you. But this isn’t leadership.

The vast majority of matters involving an employee can be handled with a dose of constructive criticism, not harsh scolding, whether in private or in front of peers. That is what a leader does as opposed to bosses dictating, governing, and ruling. A leader is right there with the rest of the team, guiding everyone in the right direction.

After all, it is the leaders who lead.

While a leader and a boss can seem similar as titles of power, you will notice differences when you start assessing the definitions and roles much deeper. Being a boss is fundamentally about gaining a specific position in an organization, and the boss’s sole objective is to achieve goals with efficiency.

Being a leader, however, is not about holding a particular position. A leader is all about creating a vision and earning the respect and trust of their subordinates. While leaders need to gain the confidence of deputies and ensure they are inspired to follow them, a boss uses his authority to be in a powerful position and gets subordinates on board through fear or intimidation.

It’s also important to note that a boss and a leader diverge on their approach to accomplish something. The boss is uninterested in altering the status quo, which means emphasizing the following procedure and creating an administrative way of leading. On the other hand, a leader is frequently looking at how to change and improve upon things.

“How can we improve and move forward together?” is a question leaders often ask. On the other hand, bosses ascertain their success in the business through a hierarchy or a title position they hold. A leader inspires anywhere and everywhere. Ultimately, the passion and impact of the people they influence are how leaders define their success.

Which one are you? A boss or a leader?

Supervisors and managers must analyze their leadership styles consistently to make sure they are leading their teams successfully. A recent study by Robert Half has shown that 49% of professionals resigned from a job due to a bad boss. In order to develop into a good leader, one should influence, inspire and mentor their team members. Every great leader incorporates a few critical strategies into their behavior: delegating authority, being thoughtful to their team members, enabling open communication, and establishing clear employee expectations.

How to become a good leader from a boss?

You can incorporate a few vital strategies into your behavior to become a good boss or a leader. Experts have listed three of these strategies as thoughtfulness, communication, and clear expectations for your employees.

  • Treat your employees with thoughtfulness. A good leader performs their decision-making process based on the best interests of the team and the company.
  • Leaders also ought to listen to their teams in order to facilitate good communication. A leader who listens will hear how to make an organization better through the team’s words.
  • Whether one sees themselves as a boss or a leader, the key to their success is their staff deeming them fair in their approach toward them, setting reasonable, clear employee expectations, and being consistent in their manners. Hence, their team knows what they can expect from their leaders.

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