A Boss vs. A Leader


If you’ve spent any time on the Internet (which, obviously…) then you’ve probably seen the above image making the digital rounds. As soon as I saw it I could immediately think of the great leaders I’ve worked for, but what was more upsetting is that I could name many more “bosses” and I haven’t always had the best experience with “bosses”.

I’ve had quite a few jobs, and while I’ve worked for a handful of leaders, I’ve also had a ton of awful, soul-destroying “boss” types. All it takes is one shift and I can sort them into either category.

Here are five things that define each one:


The Boss: When a boss talks about teamwork, they aren’t actually referring to everyone. While you’re busy working away with the team, your boss can be found sitting in their office to pass the time. They told you what to do, and they’re not going to join the grind with you. They may call it teamwork, but it never really feels like it.

The Leader: When a leader talks about teamwork, they consider their own role as well. To a leader, teamwork means everyone, regardless of the position. There is no pronounced hierarchy, there are just people helping people succeed. It may seem cliche, but the consistent use of “we” goes a long way.


The Boss: This is one of the biggest boss-flaws. Communication is a vital part of any business and relationship. The boss, however, lacks these communication skills. More often than not they assign a task or project with little-to-no instruction as to what they’re really looking for. This forces you to ask a number of questions: questions your boss probably isn’t in the mood to answer.

The Leader: Leaders are amazing communicators. They’re not going to ask you to do something you’ve never done before without teaching you first. Their instructions are clear and concise – you know exactly what they’re looking for. Most importantly? They encourage questions.


The Boss: Here’s the thing. The boss likes to feel superior and in control. The boss feels the need to assert their authority over their employees to make sure they do what they’re asked. Did you make a mistake? You can be sure your boss will have a word with you. Fear is used as a motivator instead of rewards.

The Leader: What goal are you and your team working towards? That’s the only motivation a leader needs to use. Respect is mutual.


The Boss: Leave everything at the door when you come in. Personal life and work life are distinctly separate.

The Leader: Bring your whole self to work. Personal life and work life affect each other. Success is dependent on happiness in both.


The Boss: There are going to be tough days no matter what industry you work in. Mistakes are going to be made because we’re human. The boss dwells on these days. It gets them down, and blame is usually passed around. The boss will get over it, but it’s going to take a little bitterness first.

The Leader: Leaders have tough days too. The difference is that they bounce back. They know it’s just one day. Placing blame never achieves anything. Instead, the leader focuses on what needs improving and makes that the team’s next goal.


Bosses lack a certain skill-set that makes leaders so successful: soft skills. How can you improve your company and the people who work in it? Go over this list again, and pay special attention to The Leader. It’s a good place to start.

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