Management

Boss vs. Leader

What is the difference between a boss and a leader?  There are many different ways to explain this but I’ll try to keep it simple.  The simplest explanation is a boss orders and a leader guide’s.

I have seen both of the types of management styles and while the leaders have hardworking loyal employees, the bosses have employees who do the bare minimum and are willing to jump ship as soon as a better position opens up.  This can damage a company in several ways, first it can increase turn over meaning the company will face higher onboarding costs, and second it can damage the company reputation leaving the company with bad employees who don’t really care about their job.

Every company should look out for this and make sure they aren’t putting bosses in positions of power.  Let’s say you have a 24 hour operation with three shifts: day shift, swing shift, and night shift.  Now day shift and night shift are exceeding quotas and have a high retention rate, but swing shift is only meeting quotas and has a high turnover rate.  The conventional response is to punish the employees but what every manager should do is look at the head of the shift.  I’ve seen it too many times where upper management punishes employees for their managers’ failures and that only leads to less loyalty and increased apathy for the work.


So what should you look for in a manager?

  • Bosses give orders, leaders give direction

A boss will tell you what to do and expect it to be done.  A leader will explain the objective and help you understand it.

  • Bosses hear, leaders understand

A boss will hear what you say and nothing more.  A leader will do their best to understand what you are saying and work to find an answer.

  • Bosses are the head of a team, leaders are part of the team

A boss takes their position as above and separate from the employees.  Leaders are members of their team, they don’t hold their position over their employees.


Ultimately to have thriving successful business every company needs to empower more leaders at every level and weed out the bosses.  While every leader has to take the boss position from time to time, it shouldn’t be their default position on leadership, a good leader knows when to be a boss and when to be a leader.  Finding leaders takes trial and error, but for the long term growth of any business it’s worth the time and effort.

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