All organizations have bosses, but how many can confidently say they have leaders? The terms may be used interchangeably (and are often confused), but if we look closely, not all bosses are leaders. After all, the qualities of a leader are what often sets them apart from bosses.
So what differentiates leaders from bosses?
When you hear the word ‘boss’, you immediately think of authority, a supervisor, or a person in power. It usually has a negative image, as bosses are widely known to bark orders to their subordinates and expect those orders to be followed accordingly. Sometimes the word even instills fear in employees, and this reinforces the old-school mentality that bosses can remain in control when their employees are afraid of them. And though bosses may also have some leadership qualities in them, someone who approaches their leadership in the role of a ‘boss’ is not seen as part of the team — they belong in a hierarchical position that puts them above everyone else. It’s this clear divide in ranks that often causes the rift within the team. When a ‘boss’ is in charge, team members are mere followers and not collaborators.
On the other hand, when you hear the word ‘leader’, you envision someone who knows how to work with people. Though still a figure of authority, a leader is able to manage people and guide them at the same time. They don’t merely dictate people what to do — they show them how things can be done. Great leaders often inspire and motivate their team, and they provide support when the need arises. It’s this human quality in leaders that makes employees admire them and aspire to be like them. Great leaders make great bosses.
To make our point clearer, here’s an infographic from Officevibe that best illustrates the qualities of a leader and a boss:
A workplace with leaders in them (and not just mere bosses) is a place in which people would clamor to be. Employees are people and not machine parts, so they expect to be treated with dignity and respect. When bosses possess the qualities of a good leader, employees are able to work in an environment where their voices are heard and their talents and hard work are recognized. Great leaders are able to inspire and shape good workers into the best version of themselves, and it’s this motivational factor that empowers people to work hard together as a unit, thus enriching the sense of collaboration and community within the organization.
In the end, bosses can become great leaders too, but only if they focus on the positive traits that leaders have and approach things in their team the way true leaders do. Ultimately, it’s how they decide to treat their employees and how they achieve their goals that identify them as a boss or a leader.