How to tell the difference between a boss and a leader


Once you’ve been in employment long enough, it’s a guarantee that you’ll have encountered a bad boss. Someone who sours the job for everyone under them, and who just doesn’t understand what it takes to lead a group of people. After all, that’s the point – you want to lead people, to help them achieve a goal, rather than boss them towards some arbitrary finish line. So, should you ever find yourself in such a position, take a look at some tips that’ll help make you a leader among heroes, rather than a boss among drones.

Leaders accept feedback

One of the most important things a leader needs to be able to do is listen to feedback. A boss is someone whose ears and mind are closed, unwilling to listen to suggestions or criticism. They tell you what to do, and expect you to do it exactly the way they say – but because of the presence of authority, rather than it being the best way to go about things. A boss isn’t interested in hearing how their approach can be improved. A leader, on the other hand, understands that it’s entirely possible for them to take the wrong course of action – and if they’re off-course, everyone else is going to be. As such, they’ll actively seek out feedback from their team on what they can improve on, and how.

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Leaders give feedback

While not everybody knows that leaders should receive feedback, we all know that they should give feedback. A boss expects their team to simply get on with the job regardless of circumstances. They’re happy to leave their team in the dark, and only offer feedback – usually in an abrasive manner – when things go really wrong. In contrast, a leader is active in giving helpful and positive feedback. A leader wants to see their team perform to the best of their ability, and understands that feedback is an important component of this process. Additionally, a leader offers feedback in a way that is constructive, and actually makes their team want to do a better job, rather than just rattling off a list of mistakes.

Leaders inspire

A key weakness of bosses is that they don’t know how to inspire. They expect their presence as a figure of authority to be inspiration enough, and disregard the notion of personal motivation. However, you have to offer someone meaningful inspiration if you want them to create something truly great. A leader understands this, and tries to help employees find ways to connect with the work that actually resonates with them. Leaders take the time to find out what drives their employees, what gets them up in the morning, and infuse that element into the work as best they can.

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Leaders are co-operative

The greatest failing of a boss, as opposed to a leader, is that they simply don’t care about anything outside their own success. A boss will take credit that they don’t deserve, shift blame that actually belongs with them, and pass as much of their workload off onto their team as possible. Bosses do anything to make sure that they succeed, regardless of what happens to others. Leaders take the exact opposite philosophy, trying to get the best outcome for everyone involved. A leader is mindful of their behavior, making sure that they aren’t overworking their team or delegating responsibility away wholesale. They also make sure that the team gets to reap the benefits of their work, rather than just the boss.