It’s an inevitable rite of passage to work under a boss who fails in some, or every, aspect of the leadership role. At some point, most people will have suffered the burden of a boss who is completely inept regarding the concept of teamwork. While some people in leadership positions are people whose attitude oozes toxicity in the workplace, others are harder to peg exactly what makes them poor bosses. Conversely, sometimes we have the opportunity to work under or with amazing bosses who lead by example and make us excited to go to work: leaders! If given the choice, we would choose to work with leaders every time. This raises the question, What’s the difference between being a boss and being a leader?
Boss and leader, unfortunately, are not mutually exclusive terms. A boss can have a title and be in a position to delegate and still not be a leader. On the other hand, a leader can perform the same duties as a boss, with or without the title. The key difference is the attitude and performance of the role. In any case, anyone in a position of authority should strive to be a leader.
Key Attributes of a Leader
A leader makes employees feel valued in their positions, not managed. It’s important that employees know they are trusted to do their job; it frees up time for other tasks and promotes employee efficacy. No one wants to be micromanaged; therefore, a leader must build morale and encourage autonomy by inspiring enthusiasm in the job or company.
How can a leader be sure their employee is up to a task enough to trust them? The simple answer is communication. Start a dialogue and make sure that all aspects of a project are within the grasp of the employee. A leader challenges and encourages employees to stretch well beyond their comfort zone, and serves as a force that propels them way beyond anything anyone thought possible. For this reason, with the creation of a non-judgmental environment, and a measure of positive reinforcement, there’s no reason an employee couldn’t tackle any project with a leader guiding them through the steps. A leader develops them by hands-on training, having an open door in times of need, and not by making them feel inferior for ignorance on a subject. Instead, leaders read ignorance as a chance to teach and an opportunity for innovation during the instruction process.
A few short and sweet elements that make for a competent leader are:
- Ability to stimulate enthusiasm
- Values and trusts employees
- Doesn’t micromanage
- Invests in growth and development of employees
- Works with employees to see a job complete
- Is well versed in positive reinforcement
Quite simply, a leader is someone you want to work for while a boss is someone you have to work under. Leaders help bear the burden of the workload and relieve pressure for their team. If you can’t be a boss, be a leader.
The following links list some of the top characteristics of leaders vs. bosses. Note the similarities in these lists.
- Boss vs Leader: 12 Defining Characteristics of a Leader, by Kris Fannin
- Leaders vs. Bosses: The 10 Big Differences, by Orlando Scampington