Boss v Leader: Which One are You?

Boss V Leader: what’s the difference? Quite a lot, actually! It’s extremely common for those new to management to struggle to get it right, so let’s take a look at the differences and why one is the clear leader (pun intended!).

Manager; boss; supervisor; leader; executive. In the working world we may use these terms interchangeably, but there can be a whole world of difference.

To sum up the contrast between boss versus leader for example, in just a few words:

A leader is others-centred; a boss is self-centred.

Note I said self-centred; this is not the same as selfish.

It is not unusual to see new managers feeling a lot of pressure to perform. Often they have been put into an executive or managerial role because they are very good at what they do. What many workplaces tend to forget is that good leadership doesn’t necessarily follow.

While the new manager quite naturally wants to live up to expectations, all too often they haven’t been taught how. They may not have even seen good leadership in action themselves, throughout their working life!

Consequently, they worry about how they look to their own managers, as well as staff. (See what I mean about self-centred?) As a result, the pressure means they are heavy handed in their approach, to try and get the results they want.

Unfortunately, this usually backfires.

Signs of a Boss at Work

Nobody likes to feel they are being ridden hard by a boss. The more the boss drives and demands, the more the staff withdraw and lose interest. If you see the following behaviours have become the norm in a team, it’s usually a sign of a boss versus a leader in the supervisory position:

  • workplace tardiness;

  • low morale;

  • frequent errors;

  • high rates of absenteeism;

  • stressed employees;

  • poor work performance;

  • high staff turnover.

On the other hand – if you see an inspired, interconnected group achieving outstanding results, chances are they have a leader rather than a boss at the helm.

Boss v Leader

Let’s take a look at some of the key differences between the role of boss v leader:

  • A boss drives employees – a leader coaches them;

  • A boss depends on authority – a leader depends on goodwill;

  • A boss inspires fear – a leader generates enthusiasm;

  • A boss fixes blame – a leader fixes mistakes;

  • A boss says “I” – a leader says “we”;

  • A boss knows how it is done – a leader shows how it is done;

  • A boss uses people – a leader develops people;

  • A boss takes credit – a leader gives credit;

  • A boss commands – a leader asks;

  • A boss knows everything – a leader asks questions;

  • A boss makes work drudgery – a leader makes It interesting;

  • A boss says “go” – a leader says “let’s go”.

  • A boss focuses on results – a leader on the people;

Some of America’s past presidents were very switched on to the whole boss v leader debate.

Theodore Roosevelt reputedly said, “the leader leads, and the boss drives”, while Dwight D Eisenhower expressed it this way:

You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That’s assault, not leadership.

Transforming from a Boss to a Leader

The first step to making the transition from a boss to a leader, is to acknowledge that you don’t know everything particularly when it comes to managing a team. It is only then that you can begin to learn and seek out new ways of doing things that will ultimately benefit you, your team members, and your company. It’s no secret that happy employees are much more productive and profitable!

This is where Peter Doyle Coaching comes in. As a registered Organisational Psychologist with over 30 years’ experience in working with thousands of individuals and many different organisations, our specialty is developing leaders in truth, not just in name.

If you are ready to step up into leadership, and not just into management, take a look at our services. We’d love to work with you.

Or perhaps you would first just love to gauge how you are currently tracking along your own path to becoming an Extraordinary, Inspirational, Next Generational Leader: then please click here to utilise our free self-rating questionnaire!

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