5 Differences between a Boss and a Leader

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A boss is a person to whom the workers report. A boss exercises control over employees, assigns tasks and duties to them and is entitled to take decisions on some matters.

On the other hand, who is a leader? A leader is one who holds a position of influence. They hold a dominant position and lead others by example. A leader sets goals and continually strives to achieve them.

However, there are significant differences between a boss and a leader. A boss has employees while a leader has followers.

How can you differentiate between a boss and a leader?

The significant differences are as discussed below.

1. Level of Accountability

Accountability is an area in which leaders differ from bosses. Bosses delegate responsibilities hence accountability is shared with the subordinates.

However, as a leader, full accountability is on your shoulders. Even though you share responsibilities with your subordinates, you are ultimately responsible for any failures.

2. Their Source of Authority

A boss and a leader share the fact that they are both in authority. However, the two differ in how they achieve this right.

The boss gets authority from the title and the position. The authority does not come from their ability to influence subordinates.

On the other hand, a leader receives their authority from an internal place. Your authority is handed to you by your subordinates because they believe in your ability to take charge and change things.

3. Their Underlying Focus

This is what drives the organization. Bosses are more interested in the outcome more than the process.

The role of a boss is to guarantee the organization the best financial results which will help to guarantee the continuity of the business.

However, as a leader, you are focused on changing the people and the organization. Your primary goal is to achieve change and transform the organization.

4. Work Approach

The work approach of a leader and a boss may vary depending on what drives them and where their focus lies.

What is a boss likely to do? A boss is more likely to give his job an administrative approach. The boss takes a dominating approach to work expects the subordinates to follow instructions to the letter.

With the mindset of a leader however, you approach the work through innovation and collaboration. You find new ways to do things and new routes to the objectives. You will be hands-on with the work. Your approach to work is to teach and empower the subordinates.

5. Their way of Communication

As for a boss, the communication style is commanding in nature. The communication is often one-sided. The subordinates cannot actively participate in a discussion.

What about a leader? Your way to communicate is participatory. You are more interested in the opinion of your subordinates. You might give guidance on the objective but you may allow the subordinates to figure out how to achieve it.

Be a Leader not a Boss

A boss says ‘Go’ while a leader says ‘Let’s Go’. Being a leader is not much about holding position. It is about creating a vision and earning the respect of your subordinates. A leader’s role is to empower subordinates and help them grow.

You should aim to be a leader instead of a boss. Being a boss is all about the status quo while leadership is about setting a good example to your followers. Being a leader is more fulfilling in the long-run.

Check out our GBS TV blog post for more information on self-care.


Ivy Wambui