It’s easy to mistake bosses and leaders for one and the same. After all, connotations of the word may lead us to believe that such kinds of people are most likely authority figures. However, in many circumstances, a boss and a leader are polar opposites. Whereas a boss may occupy a high rank within the company and have multiple people under his management, a leader can be the person in the cubicle next to you.
So, what exactly separates a leader from a boss? A few key actions and values.
Some people in positions of authority believe that dominion over words is what gives them power. In reality, true leaders prioritize listening over speaking. Leaders value the opinions and views of those around them and use those opinions to inform decisions. Bosses, on the other hand, may institute decisions from the top down and expect employees to agree and listen.
Intimidating employees into submission is never a good way to boost company morale or work ethics, and the same goes for public criticisms. Leaders understand that the best employees are those who feel empowered, valued, and respected. Advice or constructive criticism should be given privately and viewed as a learned experience.
The best leaders want to create more leaders, and therefore they make every moment educational. At meetings or brainstorming sessions, a leader is in the trenches offering ideas, volunteering to help, and showing enthusiasm for a project. Bosses may often assign a project and walk away, whereas a leader will stand with you and help construct a course of action.
Perhaps the most important difference that separates a boss from a leader is the absence of an ego. In order to become a leader, you have to be able to wave goodbye to the pride that keeps you from truly valuing other people’s opinions, methods, and ideas. Bosses seldom let employees fully take the reins of a project, even if their way of tackling it may be more effective and efficient.
A true leader can take a team and turn it into a powerhouse of employees who value their work and feel competent, respected, and important. In every business there’s a boss, but few have a boss who truly leads. If you’re an authority figure in your career, ask yourself: Would you rather be a boss or a leader?