Common Characteristics That Separate a Leader from a Boss (Part 1)

Maura Mann, Vice President
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Although a leader can be a boss, not every boss is a leader. Although leaders and bosses have many similar characteristics, they are quite different. Whereas being a leader requires going above and beyond the call of duty, being a boss involves fulfilling job responsibilities. Although a leader takes responsibility for the processes and team members who work to create outcomes, a boss is more concerned with the outcomes.

Here are five characteristics that separate a leader from a boss.

Leaders Guide

Leaders focus on guiding their teams. They work alongside team members to accomplish objectives. Leaders monitor their team’s progress, make necessary adjustments, and help as needed. In contrast, bosses focus on ruling their team. They tell employees what to do and micromanage their work.

Leaders Communicate

Leaders focus on communicating with their team. They listen to what team members have to say and respond accordingly. Leaders consider teammates’ ideas and input before making decisions. They provide teammates with constructive feedback and encourage feedback to improve their performance. Leaders treat team members as the valuable, respected company assets they are. They advise teammates in ways that help them feel stronger and more confident in doing their work. Conversely, bosses focus on commanding their team. They give orders and expect obedience.

Leaders Motivate

Leaders focus on motivating their team. They understand that team members have ups and downs and offer support, empathy, and encouragement as needed. Leaders prepare their team and teach them to complete their tasks. They know that each member is there for a reason and performs their duties to the best of their ability. In contrast, bosses focus on terrifying their team. They intimidate employees to perform their duties.

Leaders Teach

Leaders focus on teaching their team. They promote ongoing learning for themselves and their team members. Leaders welcome learning opportunities from coworkers at all levels. They know that learning is a lifelong goal worth pursuing. Leaders share with their team what they learn so that everyone benefits. They also welcome having teammates share with them to increase their knowledge. Conversely, bosses expect their team to know everything. They ignore opportunities to aid in employee professional development.

Leaders Modify Behavior

Leaders focus on modifying their team’s behavior. They publicly provide input on which areas team members excel in and privately share specific ways they can improve in other areas. In contrast, bosses publicly scold or shout at employees and expect them to do better. They think that embarrassing employees helps them change for the better.

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