Issued by: Blast Brand Catalysts, By: Chris Midgley

Chris Midgley, Strategist with Blast Brand Catalysts, on the difference between the two.

Many articles have been written on the differences between simply being a boss and what it means to be a leader. While a leader can be a boss, one cannot say that every boss is a leader. Although leaders and bosses have virtually the same definition, they are very different in today’s competitive corporate jungle. Russell H. Ewing, the British journalist who spent his entire career writing on leadership and management, sums up the fundamental differences in his famous quote “”A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting.”

If you ask young people starting out in their careers what it is that they aspire to be when they are older and further on in their careers, many will answer “a boss”, rather than a good leader. There are a number of reasons for this choice, being a boss is somewhat easier, as it does not require you to go above and beyond to impress someone, as you are at the top, you give the orders, others have to impress you. Being a leader however does not mean that you are at the top. Being a leader requires far more responsibility and taking a role that may not see you receiving the glory.

So what makes a good leader:

  • Leaders are able to spot hidden talent in people. This is often a talent they cannot see in themselves.
  • Leaders allow others to take risks and express themselves. Leaders provide guidance, rather than taking over. When these risks pay off, great leaders never take credit for the success. When these risks don’t pay off, leaders help people to learn from these mistakes.
  • Leaders are demanding. They will be tough on you, but always in a good way. They will push you, not to break you or keep you down, but to get the best out of you. They will take you beyond your comfort zone, and help you to achieve more.
  • Leaders strive hard to create environments of inclusiveness (regardless of your position in the organisation). They do this by listening, hearing people out and teaching rather than commanding. They will say “we” when talking about work the team has done rather than making the focus about themselves and say the word “I”. Great leaders often take part and get more involved than bosses do. They still get their hands dirty.
  • Leaders are approachable. Too often I have heard people say: “I won’t bother asking my boss. They will never allow that”. A true leader is respected and approachable. If staff respect you, they wont be afraid to ask you something, or suggest an idea (no matter how crazy it may seem). Another reason they won’t be scared to ask or suggest something is that with the respect they have for you, they would not want to take advantage nor waste your time.
  • Lastly, great leaders are fanatically loyal to their team. They are involved and hands on and make sure they know everything about everyone. They strive to treat everyone equally and to not allow personal preferences and favouritism affect the overall team dynamic. Try bad mouth a member of their team, and you will quickly see how true leaders will not stand for it.

During your career, you will encounter these two kinds of people: the leaders and the bosses. It does not matter how high the position of these individuals, be it in junior management or the CEO of a major multi-national company. The bosses are far more likely to fail while those who are good leaders will succeed. The reason is simple, people are happy to be lead as it is their choice to follow. People don’t like being bossed around.