May 26, 2022
4 min read

Boss vs. leaders: Which one are you?

Written by
Angel Lim

Are you a leader or a boss? We have differentiated between the two to understand the concept better.

You’ve heard it before.  

People leave managers, not companies.  

But why do people leave their managers?  

According to research from Gallup, 50% of employees leave their companies because of their boss.

Bad managers are abundant, and they leave an impression – that’s what makes the sitcom The Office so funny. Almost everyone can relate to the sense of dread coming to work when a manager makes a good job feel like a dead end.

Ask yourself: are you a boss or a leader? As a manager, how do you know where you stand? Do your employees doubt your ability to lead? Perhaps these differences between the two can shed some light on your leadership style.

A boss counts value. A leader creates value.

Bosses only care about the quantity of the work the team has done. In some cases, they detract a person’s self-esteem if the management style gets in the way of productivity.  

Leaders, on the other hand, create value by delegating tasks strategically. For example, they would say, “I would like you to handle project A, while I take care of project B.” They lead by positive examples to encourage the team to learn and grow.  

Bosses tear people down. Leaders build people up.

A boss feels the need to criticise people, even when they make minor mistakes. If a team member is underperforming, they will let them know in a negative way.  

As for leaders, they encourage and support their team members to achieve the ultimate goals. They offer guidance and offer positive criticisms to inspire the team to change.

boss and employee with a laptop
Leaders encourage and support team members to achieve goals.

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

Unfortunately, a boss thinks they know everything. Instead of listening, they only tell others what to do. They don’t allow new ideas or shut themselves out of what others say.  

A good leader encourages open communication all the time. They realise that there is still more for them to explore. They listen to what others have to say and share encouragement and advice.  

A boss depends on authority. A leader depends on influence.

Bosses give orders. They rely on the authority of their position to tell people what to do, and they expect people to obey based on that authority. It's more about controlling people and the situation to meet standards.

A leader’s influence stems from their character to inspire others to act. People trust and accept leader’s vision to change.  

boss points finger to employee at work
Bosses tell people what to do, instead of listening to others.

A boss makes an example out of people. A leader sets an example.

When it comes to modelling behaviour, a boss points to an ideal employee as an example that follows policies and procedures.  

In contrast, a leader models the behaviour they wish to see in the workplace. They make sure the rules apply to them, so the team members will follow the examples they set.

Bosses hold you accountable, leaders build self-accountability.

Managers represent the team. However, some bosses blame the employees without offering any advice on ways to improve. They steal credit from the team's success instead of recognising those who made significant contributions.

Leaders review what went wrong and take action to get their team back on track. When leader takes full responsibility for their actions and performance, employees are more likely to do the same. Ultimately, the team has more confidence in ownership.

Employee feels happy with laptop and mouse
Leader takes full responsibility for their actions and performance.

Be a leader, not a boss

Of course, people are more likely to jump ship when they have horrible bosses.  

Employees left when their job wasn’t enjoyable, their strengths weren’t being used, and they’re not growing in their careers.  

And all of that happened because they met a manager that didn’t give them opportunities to shine themselves.  

Therefore, if you want to keep your people – especially the high performers – it’s time to pay more attention to how you lead and guide them.  

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