The difference between a boss and a leader

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Lots has been written on the difference between a boss and a leader, and there are very few people capable of performing both roles.  The above comic depicts a boss adding extra weight hindering moving the progress of the business.  The leader, in the bottom half of the comic is not, and pulls their own weight.  Other metaphors for a good leader can also be derived from the image –  helping the team with their work and being out front for example.

So you want to be a great leader?  Here’s some ways you can refine your management skills:

  • Lead by example. If there is dirty work to do, be the first one to do it when you have the free time to do so.  New employees need to learn how to take out the trash?  Be the one to show them.
  • Focus on situations, examples of behaviour and facts, not the person.  If you want to give praise or criticise, it should always be work related.
  • Stick to the facts: “Your ability to empathise with the customer is valuable”, not “you’re so funny, people love it!”.  Personalising the job is dangerous.  Some people think that it will build loyalty, and sometimes it will, but it also makes everything personal.  When you have to criticise something, even with facts, they will take it more personally than they should.
  • Keep lines of communication open.  Have regular staff meetings (We have CEO Wednesday the first Wednesday of every month here at Staff Squared where everybody gets to grill the boss!).  Invite questions, and thank people for asking them.  Give credit where credit is due.  Inform people of how appreciated their work is on a regular basis, not just at review time.  If you’re always talking to them, nothing will be a surprise, whether it’s praise or a pep talk about challenging situations.
  • Discipline isn’t bad.  Many managers shy away from talking to employees about inconsistency.  What they don’t take into account is that allowing employees to continue to perform poorly is guaranteeing they will be fired.  Don’t look at it as discipline – look at it as coaching, or a discussion about their challenge areas. Everyone deserves the chance to fix a mistake. Hiding it from them doesn’t help you or them in the long run.
  • Encourage ownership by delegation. Employees love a company when they feel they have some sort of say in how things are done.  It doesn’t matter how minor that contribution is, if they can lay claim to a piece of it, their work performance and happiness will be affected in a great way.  Ask for opinions on future projects, and whenever possible, take all or even small amounts of their feedback and work it into the system.  Give them small independent tasks to perform and take the time to explain why it’s so important.  When they do well, give them praise, and follow up in a week or so to show them the numbers and how what they did affected the business that week

These simple ideas are incredibly effective at bringing your team together to work with you to drive your business forward.  What do you think makes a good boss?  Tell us in the comments section below!

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2 Responses to “The difference between a boss and a leader”

  1. I love the little photo at the top!

    Ive learnt that the main difference between a manager and a leader is that a manager is a role which is given to you, either when you were employed or when you were promoted.

    However a leader is something which you personally have to earn. You have to get people to want to follow you, rather than follow you because they have to!

    • I couldn’t agree more – managers also have to realise that they need to earn the respect of their team 🙂

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