Differences between Boss and a Real Leader


Are you in a leadership role or planning to pursue a managerial position in the future? Then, you might be interested in the ways to strengthen your influence and drive the performance of the team. Setting tasks and deadlines, controlling the processes and developing the team members are all the tasks of a manager.

Being a boss doesn’t mean being an effective leader, though. In fact, even though these terms are used interchangeably, they have slightly different meaning. Today, our business professional resume experts will draw the light on the core differences between the boss and the leader and give you a few hints on developing your leadership qualities.

Boss Vs Leader: The Difference in Terms

A boss is defined as someone who is in charge of a worker or organization. The word ‘boss’ doesn’t imply the specific skills or personality traits but indicates the person who was hired to manage the department, team or the entire organization. Boss is someone whose task is to get the job done using whatever methods and management style he/she finds appropriate. Boss is not always a hard working man, but he always sets clear tasks and makes sure the job is done on time and as per requirements.

The situation is whole lot different with business leadership and the leader. This word stems from ‘lead’ which means showing others the direction. Unlike the boss, the leader tells people what to do not in a strict, demanding way but rather support and provide motivational advice and is focused on the process. In fact, a leader can be not the actual boss but a team member who is respected for his professionalism and ability to inspire others. On the contrary, a boss can’t be called a leader if he doesn’t set an example or inspire others.

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Obviously, the best boss is someone who possesses leadership traits as well. Managers who have the ability to motivate, inspire and drive the employees tend to achieve better results and lead the company to success. However, the above difference between the boss and the leader isn’t the only one. Below, we’ll explore their difference in further details. 

The Key Differences between the Boss and the Real Leader

  1. Leaders are driven by values and mission, not profits
    Bosses are hired to oversee the processes within their department and ensure that the goals set are met. They are typically focused on getting the maximum profits in the short term and to get the most out of the employees. Although this approach may be helpful for the profitability, the fact that boss is focused at getting results at all costs may be harmful in the long run.
    Leaders, on the contrary, are mostly driven by the opportunity to achieve the vision and follow the mission that the company has. Before making a decision, they think over the situation to understand whether it supports the mission and helps the organization prosper in the long run. And if something contradicts with the company mission or values, it doesn’t get done. Therefore, leaders are better at thinking strategically – although they might miss out on the current profits, they help the organization prosper in the long run.
    As a leader, you should always be committed to a professional development. Learn why ongoing growth at the workplace is essential: https://resumeperk.com/blog/importance-of-personal-development-in-the-workplace
  2. Leaders prefer to delegate rather than micromanage
    The necessity to delegate is every boss’s nightmare. Bosses often believe that overseeing every single step their subordinates take will help them be in control and avoid possible mistakes. However, the outcome of micromanagement is often the opposite: it destroys motivation and slows the team down. Moreover, since the bosses are distracted by micromanagement, they often lack time to do the management work and see the big picture.
    Leaders realize that it’s the team members that stand behind the organization’s success, not them. Therefore, leader typically outlines the task for a team member, gives a few suggestions and lets them do the rest. As a result, a team member who was given responsibility for his own work, performs better and faster than if he had to report and agree on their actions.
    To make it to the leadership role, you need to plan your career carefully. Check out how to do it right: https://resumeperk.com/blog/planning-a-future-career-are-you-for-or-against.
  3. Leaders are focused on developing people 
    Bosses often see their employees as functions – someone who were hired to do the particular job. They rarely treat people as individuals and show enough respect. As a result, they see no reason in investing time and resources in developing them as professionals. Needless to say that this approach doesn’t contribute to the workplace satisfaction as well as it doesn’t help to retain the best employees.
    Leaders are typically more people-oriented. As mentioned above, they delegate responsibilities which allows the team member grow professionally while looking for the best way to complete the task. Moreover, they are always there if the employees need a piece of advice and guidance, and gladly provide constructive feedback. They devote more time to the staff than the ordinary bosses do, which helps people under their supervision learn more, develop faster and deliver higher results accordingly.
    Want to find out how to give and accept criticism professionally? Here’s the answer: https://resumeperk.com/blog/effective-ways-to-face-criticism-at-the-workplace.
  4. Leaders are people-oriented and compassionate
    Bosses show little interest in how their employees do outside of work. They lack empathy to really take care about the staff and are only concerned with the job-related issues. Although tough leadership enhances workplace discipline and productivity, it is harmful in other aspects – such bosses are often referred to as ‘terrible’.
    True leaders, in their turn, do their best to connect with employees on the human level. Their compassion allows them to anticipate the needed leadership style for a specific group and respond to it rather than inspire fear. They are open to help with resolution of any work-life balance or personal issues as they are aware that people are more productive when they’re not distracted by those issues. In their daily work, leaders inspire efforts and improve communication, and this focus on people allows them to maximize the potential of each team member.
    A good leader should also show interest in team building activities and corporate holidays and know what to wear to office company party.
  5. Leaders foster collaborative approach
    Boss is always someone who stands above the team. The boss assigns tasks, instructs on how it should be completed best and checks whether the final objective has been met. Their approach to working processes is typically dominating and isn’t subjected to discussion (can you imagine telling your boss that he/she should supervise a team in a different way?)
    Meanwhile, good leaders are always open for suggestions and feedback from their team members. They approach the work through innovation and collaboration as they value the contribution of each particular employee. Leaders prefer saying “we” instead of “I” when speaking about the team or department to highlight that the result was achieved through joint effort. They work together with the rest of the team, setting an example, motivating others to grow and empowering others rather than directing. Leaders don’t try to stick to tried and true approaches to work as the bosses do; instead, they develop new approaches to completing tasks and doing things differently.
    Trying to figure out which working style fits you best? Here are the pros and cons of teamwork and individual work: https://resumeperk.com/blog/teamwork-vs-individual-work-find-your-ideal-option.
  6. Leaders have inner authority and earn respect
    Since boss is hired to supervise a team their authority comes from their position, not from their personality traits. In other words, you have to respect your boss and fulfill their requirements because this is how the corporate hierarchy works. Because bosses don’t actually have to earn respect, they choose any leadership style they like and their approach to work is rarely influenced by subordinates. Bosses prefer to inspire fear and control every aspect of your work (to find out whether your boss is spying on you, see here: https://resumeperk.com/blog/how-to-reveal-that-your-boss-is-spying-on-you).
    Leaders, even if authority was given to them by upper management, try their best to earn respect of the team. As mentioned above, they connect with their subordinates on the human level, listen to the feedback and respect everyone who works under their direction. Since leaders use collaborative approach to work and work with the team rather than just give orders, they manage to build good, productive relations with the staff.
  7. Leaders give credit, always
    Bosses rarely give enough credit to their employees. It can also happen that they take the credit for the team’s work to feed their ego and boost their own career. Of course, the situation varies depending on the personality type of the boss, but the case when he/she isn’t thankful enough and fails to give the credit for the job well done is quite common.
    For a leader, this situation is impossible to imagine. They always give credit to the team and show their appreciation (even if the leader has done a lion’s share of the project by himself). Leaders know that giving credit to the team leads to higher satisfaction and engagement of the staff. More importantly, leaders also tend to take on the blame if something went wrong or the project failed (unlike the bosses who always blame the employees and can even apply fines).
    Want to know what motivates the people most to stick to their current job? Here’s our review of the factors which drive workplace satisfaction: https://resumeperk.com/blog/profit-or-pleasure-what-is-more-important-for-workers-today
  8. Leaders are rather your colleagues than bosses
    Bosses like to highlight that they are more important for the organization than any professional is. A cozy office, the habit to give orders rather than ask exists to show a regular worker their power and influence.
    Leaders of the new generation, however, opt for flat hierarchy. This kind of hierarchy highlights that everyone is equally important for the company’s success and everyone should be treated with equal respect. Therefore, leaders don’t care much about the attributes of power. They value the opportunity to work along with other team members and act like they’re a colleague for a staff member, not their supervisor.

If you are looking to pursue a supervisory role, you can simply apply and get hired to manage a team. However, the sole fact that you’re in charge won’t make you an effective leader. Becoming an effective leader takes effort, ability to communicate and motivate others rather than give orders; however, it’s a far more rewarding and allows you develop tremendously as well.

A true leader vs. a boss



As a rule, bosses are assigned managers. Leaders are influencers, former or present team members.
A boss manages the team with the help of financial motivation. A great leader inspires the team by new ideas and worthy values.
The management system is based on fear. They motivate employees due to leadership skills, professional knowledge, and charisma.
A boss feels the authority to dictate rules and leaves little room for individual decisions. Strong leaders focus on constructive discussions; they are ready to talk over problems.
Bosses give strict commands. Leaders listen to team members and appreciate the feedback.
Bosses dominate conversations. True leaders understand the real value of the whole team and establish a decision-making process.
Bosses tend to criticize the negative results of employees without delving into details. Good leaders apply constructive criticism and offer hands-on solutions.
The work of the boss is mainly about control.
Effective leadership implies the support of workers and help with the most difficult tasks.                       
The assigned business managers are not interested in the nuances of the working processes and focus on the results of the group.  A leader usually knows the working process from the inside out and, thus, can work alongside other employees.
Bosses create an atmosphere of strict discipline. Top talent leaders ensure a trustful business environment.

Key differences between great leaders and common bosses enable us to understand what type of business management is better in today’s world. Obviously, leaders bring more success in contemporary reality.

It’s all about fast-changing conditions for business. The practice shows that big corporations and little enterprises survive mostly due to flexible management. And a talented leader becomes one of the key figures in this case. Every next project is getting more profitable with a skillful manager.

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How to improve your leadership skills: 10 tips

  1. Have a clear vision – and communicate it
    As a leader, you should have clear understanding of what you are driving the team towards. With a vision of the result you want to achieve or the change you’d like to implement, you’ll be able to set clear goals for the staff.
    You need to communicate your vision to the rest of the staff in a way that would motivate them share it. Take your time to explain not only the benefits of your idea to the organization, but also how each team member will benefit from it as well.  And if you manage to align the long-term goal with the personal career goal of every particular employee, they’ll be highly motivated for taking on more initiative and driving the company to success.
  2. Understand your strengths
    Leaders are made, not born, and one of the things you’ll need to learn as a leader is to identify and take advantage of your biggest strengths, both innate and those you’ve developed over the lifetime. If you know your strengths, you’ll pick the best leadership tactics that fits into your personality type and style of work. Moreover, it will help you downplay your weaknesses and minimize the wrong decisions in the workplace. While personality traits of an ideal employee are pretty much the same for any job, a leader shouldn’t develop all of them – just focus on your innate gifts to develop personally and gain respect of the team.
  3. Accept your failures and learn from them
    Everyone makes mistakes, but what distinguishes a real leader is the ability to accept the mistake and willingness to learn from it. If they’ve made a wrong decision or something didn’t go as expected, they face this mistake and try their best to fix the consequences. A leader should also be able to speak about their mistake in front of the team to find a sound solution – this not also facilitates the problem resolution, but also builds the atmosphere of transparency and trust.
    To develop this ability, stop seeing your mistakes as something critical. Anyone can make the right decisions all the time, so see your mistake as a chance to learn new practices and develop your expertise. By the way, here’s the list of most popular resume mistakes you might need to correct.
  4. Commit to continuous education and growth
    To manage people in a fast-paced environment and remain competitive, it’s highly important to constantly learn and challenge yourself. Being a leader means showing the way and setting an example for others, which requires you to be on top of things going on in your organization, your industry and countrywide. Successful leaders always learn, expanding their subject matter expertise, mastering new skills to broaden their mental horizon and exploring new leadership practices. A person who is an ongoing learner has more chances to motivate and lead others effectively. Moreover, a leader who admits not knowing something and is willing to learn is more effective in a modern organiaiton than a boss who always uses tried-and-true approaches and avoids anything new. Also, a leader will likely to have a career development plan and pass the essential career milestones by 35.
  5. Listen actively
    One of the essential aspects of communication skills is active listening. Active listening is more than just asking questions to find out some information. It’s about getting involved in a conversation to connect with your interlocutor on the human level and fully comprehend their thoughts, mood and attitude, which will make an excellent base for the right decision-making.
    To master active listening, focus solely on the person you are speaking to, eliminating any outside distractions. Maintain eye contact, follow their body language and ask questions as they speak to clarify the issue on the go.
  6. Motivate and inspire others
    People don’t perform equally under different circumstances. One of the most noticeable traits that the great leaders possess is the ability to motivate others towards meeting the goal. A good way to motivate others is by setting an example. However, understanding the hidden needs and wants of the team member can literally work wonders on motivation and inspire people in no time. For instance, if an employee feels that his/her efforts are not appreciated, you can simply praise them or recognize their contribution in front of the rest of the team – and this will make better effect on their productivity than a bonus.
  7. Handle conflicts and maintain positive environment
    Positive working environment matters a lot for employee engagement and productivity. If there are any issues interfering with the working process (such as conflicts, negative attitude, workplace bullying), it’s the leader who should take charge and resolve the situation. Handling tough or conflict situations require courage, but it’s necessary to let the team function effectively. You’ll also need a lot of empathy to listen to the arguments of each side and make the grounded decision.
    As a leader, you need to treat everyone equally to avoid possible conflicts. It doesn’t mean you should have no friends at work, but keep in mind that if your best friend gets a promotion or a pay raise, you might be blamed of a biased attitude.
  8. Be passionate and enthusiastic about your job
    Leadership is more about setting an example for the rest of the team than just assigning tasks and monitoring the progress. However, to inspire people follow your example, you need to display genuine passion and enthusiasm for your projects. It’s impossible to become a great leader if you don’t truly love your job – if you don’t care much about the project success, why should everyone else do?
    When you have this passion and right attitude, don’t forget to communicate it to the staff. Highlight the importance of the project and work hard with your team rather than just direct them.
  9. Set clear, measureable goals
    Bosses often have a problem with setting tasks and goals for the subordinates. The most common problems with goal setting are neglecting the employee’s professional interests, setting unchallenging goals, or failure to set the criteria of success. Needless to say that the wrong goal setting demotivates the team rather than challenges them.
    As a leader, you’ll need to set the clear, achievable and measureable goals for each of your team members, taking their preferences and strengths into consideration. If an employee finds the goal motivating and sees the criteria for success, it minimizes workplace stress and boost satisfaction as the goal is achieved.
  10. Be open for feedback
    One of the personality traits that distinguish a good leader is openness for feedback from the employees. Great leaders don’t have a huge ego, therefore, they don’t think they’re always right and are open to listen to the opinion of qualified staff members. Employees’ feedback is an important decision making factor for them – leaders use it to resolve problems proactively and, if everything goes right, to improve the situation further.
    To take advantage of feedback, you need to foster the culture of openness and transparency; otherwise, the staff might be saying exactly what you want to hear. Showing that you value their opinion, both positive and negative, will help you direct your team more effectively.

If you develop these qualities of a successful leader, you’ll significantly increase your chance of getting promoted to a management role in your current company. However, if your employer doesn’t provide the opportunity for growth, it might be the time to seek the leadership role elsewhere. A professionally written management resume will showcase your biggest professional strengths and make your candidacy more attractive for a prospective employer.  At an affordable price, you can get your cover letter written and LinkedIn profile completed as well.

If you want to become a better leader, develop both your professional and soft skills. Having understood the key difference between the assigned manager and a real leader, you’ll focus attention on the correct priorities.

Most of the recommendations on how to become an awesome leader boil down to the following moments.

✔ Be a true professional

A good leader serves as an example for his/her team. Grow your professionalism and learn how to manage people. Your knowledge and skills will motivate other employees to reach your level.

✔ Respect your team

Do not take your employees as a faceless resource. Every team member contributes to your common cause, so appreciate his/her value. 

✔ Communication matters

Learn to express your thoughts and ideas. Alongside email communications, try to talk to every employee directly. By doing so, you will make contact with everyone and receive valuable feedback.

✔ Learn to make difficult decisions

A good leader is the one who knows the balance between risks and prudence, freedom and strict discipline, friendliness and familiarity. Train your problem-solving skills to reach new heights in the development of your office, dynamic parameters, reputation, brand awareness, etc. 

We are sure, soon you will succeed and lead your team to awesome achievements.

Becoming a real leader takes time – take the first step today

The greatest leaders have the vision, know their strengths and possess an utmost ability to communicate their vision and drive their team towards reaching the big goal. If you thrive in a fast-paced environment, are enthusiastic and love developing others, you’ll feel comfortable in a leadership role. Finding the role that suits your abilities takes time – however, you can get more interviews with a great resume.

Contact us anytime and let us know your career aspirations, as well as your largest accomplishments from the past. We’ll provide you with a resume you’ll be happy with, as well as professional interview help – otherwise, we will revise it free or charge. Check out our list of services.

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