3 Core Differences Between a Boss and a Leader

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article |Leaders|3 Core Differences Between a Boss and a LeaderWhen it comes to management in the workplace, it takes a real person to be a leader for their employees. There is a big difference between the word “boss” and “leader,” as these two words do not mean the same thing. Below is a closer look at three characteristics a leader possesses and why employees look up to them.

What a Boss is

Simply put, some bosses are just a boss. They have attained a position in the management section of the corporate world with a nice office and a designated parking space. They sit back behind their desks and make decisions that affect the direction of the company and often dictate how money is spent. Although these aspects are needed, they are not enough to make the people holding those positions leaders. Fortunately, a boss can become a leader by learning the differences and applying them to the job.

Leading, Rather Than Pushing

Leaders motivate their employees and find practical solutions together to make sure the employees are inspired and follow their leader’s example. Bosses tend to push employees into doing something without really giving them much guidance. This not only forces employees to work without having clear directions, but the results will most likely be less than favored. A good leader will present ideas and work alongside their employees to demonstrate that communication is key and working together to achieve goals as a team is the way to succeed.

Leaders Listen

A good leader spends time listening to their employees instead of talking above them. True leaders see the value of asking employees about their opinions and incorporating those opinions into the decision-making process. On the other hand, a boss will dominate the conversation while expecting employees to listen attentively and carry out commands while giving them little or no direction. Listening will build a team of engaged employees who know they are valued for their skills and knowledge and will want to work harder and more efficiently to complete projects.

Invest Time in Their Employees

Some bosses tend to ignore the majority of their employees, giving those employees the sense of an uncertain future within the company. A leader does not ignore an employee. They invest time and effort in helping each employee develop in their profession, teaching them new skills and allowing them to advance in their careers. Not only that, but a leader will look at their management style and make changes where needed to ensure they are giving employees the attention and guidance needed to perform at their best.

Many people in positions of authority seem to think they only need to stand aside and supervise their employees rather than taking the initiative and working alongside their team. Employees that see their leader invested in the project will be inspired to do their best work as well as improving the team’s motivation, creativity, and collaboration. Good leaders in the corporate world lead their employees by example. Employees will respect their supervisor a lot more if they are relatable and make themselves approachable to the staff.

Supervisors at any level are only as good as the employees that work for them. If a supervisor does not respect their employees and treat them well, the employees will not perform to the best of their ability, and this will reflect poorly on that supervisor and the project they are in charge of.

5 Telltale Signs of Fear-Based Leadership

StrategyDriven Business Politics Practices Article |Fear-Based Leadership|5 Telltale Signs of Fear-Based LeadershipFear is bad for business. It significantly lowers engagement, morale, and ultimately, performance. Despite clear and overwhelming evidence of fear’s debilitating impacts, many leaders still resort to stoking people’s anxieties to get work done.

Consider these facts:

  • According to Human Resource Executive magazine, roughly one-third of U.S. workers spend at least 20 hours at work every month complaining about their bosses, instead of performing their jobs.
  • Gallup reports that American workers who are unhappy with their bosses are significantly less productive, to the tune of $360 billion in lost productivity each year.
  • A study published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology found that people who are mistreated on the job are twice as likely to be depressed at work and 33 percent more likely to report exhaustion and sleep disorders, which all disrupt productivity.

Given how damaging fear can be—and given the financial consequences—how can you assess if your organization is operating under fear’s grip? Look for these five telltale signs:

CYA Rules the Day. If employees spend an inordinate amount of time generating proof that they’re doing their jobs, they’re fearful—and worried about saving their tails. This may take the form of long lists of people cc’d on mundane email exchanges, obsessive meeting summaries, and employees who request formal approvals for everyday tasks.

Leaders Are Oblivious. When leaders are insulated from employee feedback, they become dangerously blind to themselves. Typically, the higher up you go in the organizational food chain, the less performance feedback is given. In most organizations, feedback flows downward, keeping leaders dangerously and blithely oblivious.

Bean Counters Call the Shots. In fear-based cultures, the educational backgrounds of C-suite leaders can disproportionately favor finance and accounting, which causes organizations to be hyper-analytical and risk-averse. When financial acumen is valued more than creativity or innovation, decisions end up being driven solely by the numbers, or by the fear of not meeting those numbers, instead of what’s in the best interest of the organization.

Everything Is Needed Yesterday. When fear-based leadership reigns, work environments turn toxic, permeated by anxiety and urgency. In such places, regardless of their roles, everyone seems to have the same job: firefighter! By jumping from one blazing inferno to the next, workers lose focus and their performance suffers.

People Are Crucified for Mistakes. When leaders rule through fear, even smart mistakes are punished swiftly and harshly, creating a play-it-safe-at-all-costs environment. Workers end up hiding their mistakes or blaming others for them. They cry, “Who caused this to happen?” instead of “How did this happen?”

Fortunately, despite all of its badness, fear does have one redeeming quality: it’s an invitation to courage. As such, fear, or more precisely, the courage that fear often prompts, can help you encounter your better self. By setting the tone from the top, you’ll set the stage for courage to prevail.

About the Author

Bill Treasurer is a workplace expert, courage pioneer, and author of Courage Goes to Work: How to Build Backbones, Boost Performance, and Get Results. Founder of Giant Leap Consulting, a consulting and training company specializing in courage-building, he advises organizations — including NASA, eBay, Lenovo, Saks Fifth Avenue, Spanx, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Pittsburgh Pirates — on teaching workers the kind of courage that strengthens businesses and careers. Learn more at