College of Business

Identifying differences between a boss and a leader

By Alyssia Faye | July 28, 2023

The differences between a boss and a leader can be confusing. However, these two roles differ in their missions, as well as their methods.

A boss only manages employees. A leader, on the other hand, is there to inspire them, to innovate, to motivate, and to help employees reach their potential.

If you are unsure about the differences between the two, here are some key traits that will help you differentiate bosses from leaders.

It’s all about how they think and execute

A boss has a know-it-all attitude, while a leader has an open mind.

Leaders adopt a growth mindset. They are open to new ideas. Leaders adjust their practices if an efficient, simpler, or more productive way is proposed. Leaders will easily put their egos aside to adopt better solutions in order to see those around them succeed.

A boss controls and dictates while a leader collaborates

Bosses have strategies to achieve certain goals. They can often be seen as controlling or authoritarian. The boss assigns employee’s tasks, gives them deadlines, and makes important decisions. He can be seen as insensitive to his employees’ needs.

A leader works hand-in-hand with his followers to get the best possible results. He works to build meaningful relationships so he is a part of the team. Leaders are not scared to roll up their sleeves to get the work done.

A boss puts the blame on others while a leader takes accountability

When a team fails, leaders take responsibility. They see what went wrong, then learn from their mistakes. They understand that if they do not meet expectations, they will need to make some adjustments to see better results.

On the other hand, bosses will not necessarily own up for the group’s failure. A boss will be more likely to put the blame on employees and point fingers when failure occurs.

A leader cares about the person more than his role

While a boss will have impersonal relationships with his employees, a leader will invest time in getting to know his team.

Leaders invest time in their team to lay the foundations of trust which is crucial to team success. Knowing each person allows the leader to adapt his leadership style and see what kind of method is the most efficient for his team.

The Bottom Line

The clearest difference between a leader and a boss is their relationship with the team.

Bosses tend to maintain distance from their employees, causing them to be seen more negatively. This distance is often due to a controlling management style.

A leader will make the team’s success a priority and invest in the people they are leading. A leader will be trusted to take the team toward success by listening, caring, and having an open mind.

Are you a boss or a leader?

Alyssia Faye is a key account manager at AHG. She has worked in the aerospace industry for less than a year and is currently working toward obtaining a Master in Business Administration at Charleston Southern University.

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