The main difference between leader and boss is how power is exercised. Both have decision-making power and are ahead of a group or team, but the leader does it in a democratic and inspiring way, while the boss is more autocratic.
The corporate world has learned in recent years that there is a difference between a leader and a boss. What do you know about it?
Questions like this may seem like mere details, but this is no longer true, especially when the difference between one term and another leads to significant differences for the reality of an organization.
Leaders and bosses act in different ways, are not seen in the same way and cause unique impacts on their teams . Consequently, the posture of each has different effects on the results of a business.
What is the difference between a leader and a boss?
To talk about the difference between a leader and a boss, we need to share with you some key ideas that help to better understand these two figures.
In common, we can say that both have decision-making power and are ahead of a group or team . This is why there is a tendency to believe that leader and boss are synonymous words and functions.
However, the leader is the one who encourages each member of his team to deliver their best day after day. Thus, he is a figure that inspires and, therefore, is closer to each employee.
Since the head can be seen as someone who, as The Prince of Machiavelli, believes that “it is better to be feared than to be loved , when you have to give up one of the two.”
What does this tell us? That the main difference is in the way each figure exerts power and, consequently, how each one interacts with their team.
What aspects and characteristics make the difference between a leader and a boss?
When indicating the difference between leader and boss, we have already shared aspects that help to identify the characteristics related to each figure.
However, it is possible to go further for an even clearer understanding. Check out:
Characteristics of a leader
A leader manages to arouse respect from his team not because of the “fear” due to his hierarchical position, but because of the proximity and the way he relates to the professionals.
Having enough knowledge and experience, the leader sets himself up as an example . Therefore, it keeps closer to its team, following its daily work and becoming an inspiration.
This proximity allows their knowledge to be shared more easily , which favors the team’s development and motivates it. This posture is part of the characteristics of a leader.
Furthermore, the leader knows the strengths of each professional on the team and their characteristics. Thus, it knows how to guide and motivate each one in the best way.
Also goes for weaknesses. Something that leads us to emphasize that, for the leader, dialogue with his team is essential for achieving results and for a good organizational climate.
This means that the leader also knows how to listen . We are talking about a person who makes room for feedback about his work and conduct, and who knows how to recognize his faults.
Even if respect for hierarchy exists, the leader places himself as a member of his team and, therefore, defends it whenever necessary.
Characteristics of a Boss
In turn, a boss tends to earn respect from his team for the authoritarian exercise of power . We’re talking about someone who shows everyone who’s in charge.
Like the leader, the boss has a lot of knowledge and experience. However, he does not usually set himself up as an example, but as someone who, because he knows so much, has the right to dictate the rules.
All of this indicates that the boss imposes a certain distance from his team , something that can turn him into an intimidating figure and evaluated as less accessible.
This access difficulty also disfavors exchanges. The boss does not tend to listen to his team on a day-to-day basis , and this can discourage those who want to share ideas or simply present their doubts.
More focused on the success of processes and projects, the boss is less concerned with the well-being of his team , with its potential and demands, or with the organizational climate .
Therefore, it is more difficult to adopt strategies for the growth of each member or the team as a whole. In some cases, the boss understands that he doesn’t need to motivate anyone because doing a good job is nothing more than an obligation.
With all of this, the tendency is for a person with a boss profile to look like a tyrant and that, undoubtedly, it is always better to have a leader. However, this is not 100% of the time .
A boss or someone with an autocratic leadership profile can be a good choice for dealing with inexperienced teams or facing a crisis situation, for example.
However, it is true that this figure is less and less popular and that, as a result, the idea that it is convenient to turn bosses into leaders is growing .
For that reason, from this point in the reading onwards, we’ll address the difference between leader and boss with leaders as a reference.
What are the attributions of a leader?
Roughly speaking, leader and boss have the same central attribution: to lead their team so that it contributes to achieving the expected results for the business.
However, while the boss focuses on the practical part , a good leader is the one who understands that success in achieving results is linked to the good performance of his team and, therefore, acts to create a positive work environment .
To create this environment, the leader seeks to know the profile and demands of each member of their team to know how to motivate them and get the best out of each professional.
This is a job that the boss usually doesn’t have, since he understands that if the professionals have the technical skills to perform the tasks , it is not necessary to identify strengths or encourage anyone.
The difference between leader and boss also leads us to emphasize that it is the leader’s role to inspire the behavior of their team . This is also about reinforcing behaviors that are in accordance with the organizational culture and correcting those that are not.
Also, guiding the best way to perform a task, helping to resolve challenges and make decisions are attributions that are part of the day-to-day of a good leader.
What is the posture of a good leader?
There are many different types of leadership. As we indicated earlier, considering what difference is between leader and boss, the latter comes closest to the autocratic style of leadership.
In turn, democratic leadership is the opposing point and fits well with the figure of leader we are describing here. However, it is noteworthy that there are also liberal , situational and technical leaderships .
Some issues differ. For example, technical leadership depends on a higher level of technical skill in the leader . However, the ideal posture always follows the same essence.
So, based on research by Sunnie Giles and her article published in the Harvard Business Review , we will present five main categories for a leader to perform well.
Note that, among these five highlighted attributions, we will mention others that are also part of the list of characteristics that , in the evaluation of the research participants, a good leader must have.
Giles listed 74 competencies and asked participants to highlight the 15 most important. The result takes us beyond technical knowledge, also contemplating the need for varied soft skills .
High sense of ethics and clear communication
The research identified and united two attributes in the same category: a high standard of ethics , morals and the ability to communicate expectations clearly .
Understand that, for a leader, having high ethical standards means being committed to fairness and this is something that gives confidence to team members .
The rules presented are charged to everyone and apply even to the leader himself. Thus, there is less room for injustices that could generate rivalries and conflicts.
Furthermore, the clear communication of expectations ensures that all employees are well aware of the rules and their tasks . Something that reinforces the feeling of security reduces low productivity and other problems.
Encouragement of self-organization
The self-management is an increasingly common concept in the corporate world. We speak of a “way to manage employees so that they are increasingly autonomous and independent”, without resorting to the leader all the time.
This attribution is directly related to the ability to communicate expectations clearly because an employee can only be independent if he really knows what is expected of him.
In this context, the encouragement of self-organization is linked to the ability to distribute power and let the team have more autonomy to organize their time and work.
This is one more difference between a leader and a boss, as a leader concentrates the power and prefers to have more control of the processes instead of giving in to this flexibility .
According to Sunnie Giles in the aforementioned article, there is research that indicates that teams that have more autonomy are more productive, have higher levels of job satisfaction and serve their clientele better .
openness to learning
Still following the attributions raised in the Harvard Business Review article , another outstanding attribution concerns being flexible to change your opinions .
This characteristic can be placed side by side with two other very important ones: being open to new ideas and creating a safe environment for trial and error .
Again, the difference between leader and boss leads us to say that while bosses tend to be against change and innovation because they are more pragmatic, leaders are more open .
Because they understand that good performance can also come from the creative and innovative freedom of their team members, the leader listens and allows for the risk that some attempts are made in search of better results .
This, in fact, favors the learning and evolution of each professional instead of undermining their chances of learning more and growing.
Considering what you’ve just read, it’s only natural that the ability to help your team members grow professionally is part of the job of a good leader.
This makes the leader both committed to training employees and helping to train new leaders . A combination that certainly motivates the team and favors talent retention .
When employees understand that there is an incentive to their growth , they feel more motivated to express their gratitude, seeking their maximum performance.
Furthermore, they run after this evolution, which has everything to be positive for the organization, even considering that these employees start to see themselves in the company for longer.
Promotion of the feeling of connection and belonging
Finally, a good leader bets on frequent and open communication , as well as creating an understanding that success and failure are collective .
Bringing these issues together serves as a foundation for connecting team members and a real sense of being part of a team.
This understanding favors emotional well-being as well as working together.
With a lighter climate and a heightened sense of partnership , unnecessary enmities and competition are left to one side. Thus, there is less need for conflict management on a day-to-day basis.
How to develop a good leader and boss?
Pointing out the differences between leader and boss is something that still needs reflection: a leader can be a boss, but a boss cannot be a leader.
The autocratic leadership style is outdated , but for a long time it was understood as the most “natural”. Whoever has more power rules and the others follow those orders.
Breaking this dynamic requires a process, including aiming at the development of a good leader.
Leading tends to be easier and, to understand this, it is enough to consider how the level of involvement of those who want to lead needs to be much higher.
Thus, a leader is made with the development of skills and with the accumulation of experience ahead of teams .
HR has an important role in guiding this development, which has to do with creating conditions for the company ‘s job and salary plan to be fulfilled.
We highlight some important points below:
- Identify the strengths of the future leader or leader in development. It is interesting to focus the leader’s efforts on what he or she excels at , although global skills can be developed. Thus, it is necessary to define the role of each one to better guide this development and make the understanding of what it means to be a good leader less abstract;
- Set a performance standard for the organization’s leadership. Although they have different profiles given their individuality and outstanding abilities, there needs to be something in common in the performance of people who occupy a leadership role in the company. The attributions that we listed above need to serve as a guide for everyone so that the differences between leader and boss are clear and nobody in this role acts in an autocratic way;
- Apply performance reviews to get feedback on each leader’s conduct. Remember that we said that a leader needs to be open to feedback , know how to listen and recognize any failures? It is not possible to form a good leader without room for adjustments and improvements . Thus, a good feedback gathering process is welcome . If applied with a certain frequency, it tends to favor a gradual and consistent evolution. For HR, the suggestion is to design an assessment that questions specific points of a leader’s activities.
A good way to do this is with a 360 degree rating., as it is the assessment that provides a more plural view of the performance of a company employee.
Why bet on developing leaders?
By now you know that good leaders are not born ready . Also, you need to understand that they are not available on the market for a long time either .
Thus, one of the reasons for betting on leadership development is to make the good ones part of your company’s staff.
Another important reason is to have professionals in this role capable of contributing to the organization achieving the best possible result, relying on the maximum performance of its employees .
Bearing in mind everything we’ve presented about the difference between leader and boss, it should already be clear to you that it tends to be easier to get better results if a leader is at the front of each team.
See below some advantages and, therefore, reasons to develop leadership in your company:
Have a leadership with good cultural fit
The alignment between the profile of a professional and the organizational culture is always very interesting because it favors motivation and performance , in addition to reducing the chances of high turnover .
When we talk about a leader, the cultural fit is even more important because the professional in this role also serves as an example so that the team has conducts that speak to the company’s values.
Developing leaders involves selecting employees who are already part of the workforce and are already well aligned to assume this important role. The chances of success are greater.
Avoiding expenses with a contract
The recruitment and selection process is not free. Although it often makes sense, even if the company needs to find a leader more urgently, it is not the only way.
Sometimes finding a good market leader is something that depends on hunting in HR . Something that consists of a specialized and direct approach even to professionals who are already employed.
Doing so may require extra investment because organizations do not always have an in-house hunting specialist .
Therefore, investing in leadership training can be more strategic.
Have more possibilities in sight
Leadership development is a gradual process. By the time a professional is ready to assume the role of leader, others may be evolving to have the same opportunity .
This also reduces HR’s work in seeking out potential market leaders, in addition to enabling the company to count on increasingly qualified staff.
Winning more engaged teams
When explaining the difference between leader and boss, we indicate how the leadership creates a close relationship with its team and has other behaviors that help it to increase its motivation and engagement .
This engagement favors productivity, the search for self-improvement, as well as loyalty to the organization and talent retention. Something that can, among other things, strengthen the employer brand .
Find it easier to resolve bottlenecks
It is a fact that people management is a challenge that every company must face if it wants to be successful. Having good leaders is having professionals who know each member of their teams well.