We all know the dreaded boss figure portrayed in many comic strips and comedy films. The boss is typically yelling and calling for unimportant meetings while his workers sneak around the office trying to avoid being seen. Sometimes this happens in real life, but in most cases, these exaggerated characteristics are not the differences separating a boss from a leader.

Many bosses grew into their jobs after having been promoted and learned as they went. And while most strive to become a leader to their team, they may lack the tools and know-how of how to get there. Understanding some differences between a boss and a leader can help your managers shape up and inspire their employees to enjoy their work and put in their best performance.

4 Surprising Differences Between a Boss and a Leader

1. Inspiration

On the surface, the terms “boss” and “leader” are synonyms, but if you ask a team of employees, they will readily be able to identify which term best describes their manager. A leader inspires their team to go above and beyond, to take ownership of a project, and to believe in what the leader is “selling” - which is the leader’s vision of the project.

Employees are excited to be a part of a leader’s team and don’t look at their leader as the enemy to avoid in the workplace. Leaders encourage their team by gaining support for their ideas and allowing their team to explore new avenues and feel fulfilled in their work. A leader serves their team and sets an example for their team, and does not feel threatened by innovative employees.

2. Characteristics

Becoming a leader requires specific characteristics that can be improved with practice and coaching. In order to inspire others, a leader needs to work on their ability to influence and persuade others to see a problem or project from their point of view. A leader needs to be able to use their communication skills in a variety of settings depending on their audience, and communicate the impact of what they do today on the future.

Leaders are able to help their team to think about the organization as a whole instead of just their one department. They are able to listen effectively and willingly accept new ideas and creative problem-solving from the team.

3. Connection

One of the major differences between a boss and a leader is the connection that employees feel to the company built through the manager. If employees are staring at the clock just waiting to go home every day, then the connection is likely not very strong. However, if employees are diligently involving themselves in the project and losing track of time, then there is most likely a strong leader behind this drive and passion for the task at hand. A leader helps their team to feel connected to the cause, as well as safe, wanted, and valued in the workplace. Employees feel that their presence, their ideas, and their contributions matter.

4. Relationship

A leader checks in on their employees for more than just seeing if their tasks are done. They strive to understand their team members - who they are and what drives them. A leader is constantly making connections with their team so that everyone feels heard, seen, and valued. They communicate the complexities of issues in a way that all employees will understand, and demonstrate accountability, helping the team to move forward through barriers and understand the “why” of what they do.

Above all, a leader is approachable. They are open to questions and are happy to explain the reasons behind a situation. Their open-door policy invites the team to communicate with them and build a relationship, helping the employee to invest in the company and see themselves as a vital part of the organization.

A Boss or a Leader: Which are You?

Becoming a leader takes time, practice, and diligence. It also includes establishing processes that support individual autonomy alongside modeling leadership behaviours. Not sure where to begin or where you may fall on the boss/leader spectrum? Tulloch Consulting can help. Contact us today for your free consultation.