Many people aren’t aware that there’s a difference between the terms ‘boss’ and ‘leader’, yet understanding the distinction and acting upon it can completely revolutionise the way you run your team.
So, what’s the difference between a boss and a leader?
A boss is generally more authoritarian, with a strict office hierarchy placing them at the top.
A leader tends to be more collaborative, with a more horizontal office structure.
A boss tends to micromanage, or order people to do things and then stay distant from the process.
A leader tends to delegate, or pitch in on the project as a team player.
A boss doesn’t tend to give regular and constructive feedback. A boss doesn’t accept feedback.
A leader appreciates that a strong feedback loop is how everyone gets better.
A boss doesn’t aim to inspire, they aim to get results.
A leader inspires in order to get results.
A boss doesn’t really care whether the team is happy, as long as the job gets done. This often causes high turnover.
A leader understands that a happy team will do the job better, and that a happy team has low turnover.
A boss likes to see things done ‘their way’. A boss prefers tried and tested methods.
A leader has a growth mindset, and likes to see new approaches. A leader encourages creativity and innovation.
A boss takes credit, and praises rarely.
A leader gives credit, and praises very regularly.
A boss likes to be the centre of attention, and spends little time developing others.
A leader loves to see others shine, and encourages and coaches them to do so.
As you can probably see from above, the ‘boss-type’ is often a regimented disciplinarian who stifles creativity, and has little time for the human side of running a business. Employee disengagement, lack of trust and high turnover tend to result when a ‘boss’ is in charge of running a team.
How do you become less of a boss, and more of a leader?
To become a leader, you have to learn to control your ego. When you find yourself tensing and thinking ‘Just do what I tell you, I’m the boss’? For that matter-how often do you say that? If you are thinking and speaking like that, you need to find better ways to motivate and inspire your team to fulfil your goals. You shouldn’t need to rely on ultimatums or your authority to get your employees to do what you want.
Sit down with your team as individuals and find out how they’re going, what they’d like to improve, and how you can help them do their job better.
Give them some autonomy. Allow them to choose a project, or run a project. Step back and allow them to be creative, but show that you’re there to support them if they need it. Pitch in with the dull stuff that no-one wants to do once in a while- even if it’s half an hour once a month, it sends a signal that you don’t think you’re above them, that you’re part of the team.
Praise, praise, and praise some more.
You must learn to ‘lean in’. It takes showing a bit of vulnerability, but opening up a bit to your team will slowly work to generate trust.
Be seen passing credit onto your team, rather than hogging the limelight.
You’re probably realising that you display some characteristics from both categories, or that there’s some room for improvement. That’s normal, no-one’s perfect after all- but if you can find ways to move further away from the style of the dictatorial boss and more towards the inspirational leader, you will find your role managing others much easier…and a great deal more rewarding.