Boss and leader are just synonyms, right? That’s certainly an understandable way of thinking about things. But there are definitely subtle differences between the two words. Well, semantically, the differences are subtle. But practically? When you’re actually in the workplace, in charge of all those employees? There’s a huge difference between a boss and a leader. And your employees are going to know the difference.
The steps towards being a leader
When we think about bosses in the workplace, we often think about management degrees. We think about people who have worked their way up the ladder often by brute force. We think about people who seemed to do all their previous jobs so well that now they’re rewarded by not having to do much else. They can just sit there and tell everyone else what to do.
The best way to start becoming a leader instead of just a boss is to start as early as possible. For a lot of people, this means taking academic routes that put focus on leadership instead of cold business management. An example of such a route would be a strategic leadership degree.
A boss is seen as very impersonal. They’re there to tell you what to do. They’re not even necessarily there to tell you how to do it. They just want the job done, and they want it done on time. They can then give you feedback on how you did the task — usually only when you’ve done it incorrectly, though.
But a leader is more compassionate than that. They see things in terms of “we” instead of “I”. They think about the performance of everyone in the business. As a business owner, it’s important that you start to see everyone’s performance as a reflection of your own performance. If the job isn’t being done well enough, then does that automatically mean that the employees are bad at what they do? Not really. It could well mean that your own methods simply didn’t work out. A leader recognizes this and works with the team — a direct part of the team — to help overcome the difficulties.
Why is this so important?
Part of what makes a workforce succeed or fail is their level of satisfaction. It’s been shown time and time again that the happiest workers are usually the most productive. And this isn’t a case of correlation tricking you into believing in particular causation. Satisfaction directly impacts the quality of work someone is capable of.
When you’re a cold, impersonal boss, you usually inspire fear. People don’t feel any particular pleasure working for you. The way they see their job is that if they don’t please you then they’ll be punished or even fired. Simply put, this creates a toxic work environment. You should be someone that earns respect. When you walk into the office, your employees shouldn’t (silently) groan. They should be inspired to see you in the office!
Taking a leadership approach instead of a boss approach sees everyone benefit. You, your employees, and the company as a whole.
There might be rap songs out there bragging about “being a boss”. But that’s because simply being a boss takes so much less work. Being a leader is what takes real effort — effort that pays off for everyone.