8 Differences Between a Boss & a Leader

8 Differences Between a Boss & a Leader

Eight Differences Between a Boss and a Leader 

By Mark Wager

If you are lucky enough to be placed in a position where you have responsibility for a group of people then there are many decisions you are going to have to make but the most important one is whether you want to be a Boss or a Leader? While you may think a Boss and a Leader are two terms describing the same title you would be wrong. Being  a Boss and being a Leader are two different approaches and which ever one you decide to embrace you will have a lasting impact on your team and your career so in this weeks article I want to explore the differences so you can decide if you want to be a Boss or a Leader?

A Boss directs - A Leader coaches 

The first difference relates to how they communicate the distribution of workload. The Boss adopts the more traditional approach of directing work while the Leader instead focuses on coaching, ensuring that the people within the team have the necessary skills not only to do their current role but also to perform additional duties. The Leadership approach takes more time at the beginning but is far more efficient because after a while the team is more capable of performing a more varied range of tasks.

A Boss focuses on themselves - A Leader focuses on the team 

When you are working as part of a team your main focus is on the quality of work you are performing which is understandable because you will be judged on what you do but when you have responsibility for a team then you are judged by what other people do which means you need to change your focus. A Boss fails to do this because they continue to focus on themselves yet a Leader understands that they only exist because of the team so their focus is always on the team and not themselves 

A Boss offers criticism - A Leader offers solutions 

No matter the quality of the people within your team mistakes will occur, people are not perfect. When mistakes occur a Boss criticises those who made the mistake, this way ensuring that people are reluctant to repeat the mistake because they don’t want to suffer the same criticism yet a Leader approaches the same situation by offering solutions. They understand that people don’t make mistakes on purpose and by offering solutions people learn, improve and become, better therefore making it less likely for people to make the same mistakes again 

A Boss focuses on results - A Leader focuses on behaviours 

A team has to produce results otherwise it will no longer exist but there’s a key difference in approach between a Boss and a Leader and how those results will be achieved. The Boss focuses  only on the results, nothing else matters yet a Leader focuses on behaviours because they know if you get the behaviours right then the results take care of themselves. A good example is about the All Blacks who are told don’t focus on the results instead focus on the 80 minute performance, make no mistakes, do your job, make the right decisions and the score takes care of itself.

A Boss projects strength - A Leader projects humility 

When you have responsibility for a team you are often the person that the team goes to for answers, you are often the person that talks on behalf of the team and when this happens it’s understandable if you obtain a false sense of your importance but being in charge doesn’t mean you are more important than anyone else it just means you are in a specific role. A Boss doesn’t believe this so they hold onto their ego by displaying acts of strength, holding others back and only listening to comments that support their own views while a Leader understands that they are part of a team so humility is more important because their ego is less fragile.

A Boss talks - A Leader listens 

When I’m asked to help a team improve their level of teamwork the first thing I look at is the level of communication at meetings especially between the Manager and the team. When the team has a Boss you often see the boss doing all the talking, very rarely asking questions and instead telling people what they should be doing yet when the team has a Leader I see interactive conversations during meetings with people sharing ideas thoughts and even concerns. The Leader does something that a Boss struggles with and that is they listen to what people are saying.

A Boss manages people - A Leader inspires people 

I remember a phone call I received from someone I was coaching. He was proud that during a busy time at work he asked the team to stay late and help out. I told him he had every right to be proud if his ambition was to be a Boss but if he wanted to be a Leader then he wouldn’t have to ask because the people around him would be so inspired that they would stay late and help out without being asked. It’s easy to manage people but true value comes from having the skills to inspire people to believe in something greater then themselves and that requires Leadership.

A Boss takes credit - A Leader gives credit 

If you are not sure if someone is a Boss then here’s a tip. Just stay quiet for a minute and they will soon tell you. A Boss is motivated by self-preservation so they are often self-promoting, taking credit for other people’s ideas because they are scared of what might happen if other people are seen to be doing well yet a Leader is motivated by inspiring others so it’s more natural for them to give credit and to highlight the work that others are doing. They don’t need to be front and centre of every piece of work. The ultimate goal of a Boss is to keep their job, the ultimate goal of a Leader is to create more Leaders.

Boss takes credit - A Leader gives credit 

If you are not sure if someone is a Boss then here’s a tip. Just stay quiet for a minute and they will soon tell you. A Boss is motivated by self-preservation so they are often self-promoting, taking credit for other people’s ideas because they are scared of what might happen if other people are seen to be doing well yet a Leader is motivated by inspiring others so it’s more natural for them to give credit and to highlight the work that others are doing. They don’t need to be front and centre of every piece of work. The ultimate goal of a Boss is to keep their job, the ultimate goal of a Leader is to create more Leaders.

About the Author

Mark Wager is the Chief Leadership Coach at the Australasian Leadership Institute. Originally from the United Kingdom but now calling New Zealand his home, Mark shows leaders across the Asia Pacific region how to influence, motivate and inspire their teams. Driven by a frustration of attending many ineffective workshops during his 30 year managerial career Mark has made his passion in life to redefine how leaders are trained.

Mark takes advanced psychological theories and makes them accessible to the modern leader regardless of their background, experience or industry, by developing customised Leadership workshops and individual coaching sessions that combine practical real-life scenarios with a mixture of British wit. Mark dispels the myth that there are certain Leadership skills that can’t be learnt. 

Leaders from some of the regions most prestigious organisations have been trained by Mark including the delegates of the European Union, Weta workshops, Amnesty International, Unicef, Barnados, St Johns, Red Cross, NZ Basketball, NZ Tennis, NZ Hockey, NZ Netball, NZ Rugby League, Ministry of Justice, Department of Internal Affairs, NZ Defence Force, the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation, The Fred Hollows Foundation, Sofitel resorts, Raddison Hotel Group, Te Whanau Waipareira and many more. 

If you would like a free 30 minute Leadership coaching session with Mark you can contact him via the enquiry form below.

Posted: Tuesday 17 November 2020


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