Key Differences Between A Boss And A Leader

Lizzy van der Ligt

Understanding the difference between a boss and a leader is not about one being better than the other, it’s about knowing when it’s time to put your big boss hat on and when it’s time for you to step up as a leader. Bosses focus on the execution, leaders focus on inspiration.

Bosses are operational, leaders have vision.

Bosses will tend to focus on the more operational side, the day-to-day management to oversee the smooth running of things. They are there to make sure things get done. Leaders, on the other hand, are defined by their vision. Leaders set the strategy at the highest level and then inspire others to drive the ambition with them.  Both approaches can be complementary and both are key for any making any vision a reality. Bosses start with “how” and leaders start with “Why”.

Bosses have teams, leaders have followers.

Managers have instant authority based on their title and reporting line where as leaders can crop up in any level of the organisation. Whilst managing people may give you authority, you don’t have to be a boss to lead others. As a leader, you’ll be the one to step out first, the one who inspires others across all parts and levels of the organisation to join you in your cause. So no matter where you are within the business, what counts is your conviction in your vision and your ability to motivate others to come with you. Your strength as a leader isn’t determined from the number of people you manage or the number of followers you have, but how engaged and committed your tribe is.

Bosses direct, leaders listen.

Whilst as a boss you may have to focus on the day to day output and be forced to be more directive at certain times, this doesn’t mean that you can’t also be a leader. Ensuring the vision is clear, listening rather than telling and inspiring rather than driving will all ensure that your team makes “it” happen because they want to, not because they have to.  In this way when challenges arise your team will stick with you, not only because they believe in your cause but, most importantly, because they believe in you as their leader.


  • ray

    Love this article!

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