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Leaders vs. a boss

The Top 8 Differences Between a Boss and a Leader

Although a boss and leader may seem like the same thing, there are defining characteristics that ultimately divides them. A boss, for example, is often more hands-off than a leader. They delegate but rarely get involved in the process, which usually means that they rely on second-hand information when making decisions on behalf of their departments. Leaders, however, work from within and can make decisions on-the-fly, based on shortfalls in operations or gaps within the corporate infrastructure. Leaders put people first, while bosses are more focused on the end-result – achievable or not.

There are major differences between a boss and a leader. Which one are you?


1. “We” vs. “I”

When dealing with a boss mentality, it seems to be less about “we” and more about “I.” The boss has an ego to fulfill and wants the gratitude to be directed in his favor. He wants the higher-ups to believe he’s the one responsible for the success of operations, whereas a leader may take a more humble approach. When everything goes wrong, the boss accepts no blame and shifts blame upon somebody else.

The leader cares more about the success of the team and what they can achieve – together. He praises his team and is not only focused on the journey but also the process of getting there. Leaders love facing challenges head-on, contributing their expertise wherever they can – even if it means staying extra hours and working overtime. Bosses, on the other hand, are more focused on the task at hand and getting as much done as they can, before clocking out to go home at the end of each night.


2. Delegation vs. Inclusion

As bosses delegate, leaders practice inclusion. In both situations, team members are expected to complete various tasks, according to the scope and depending on schedule. But, how they carry out each task is a bit different from the next. Leaders lead, bosses push.

Bosses assign jobs, based on credential, paygrade, or area of expertise. Leaders, on the other hand, may group teams, based area of specialization or the level of potential that they have been known to demonstrate. They replicate top talents while duplicating capabilities. A boss may exceed quota and maintain a high level of efficiency – but what about:

  • Productivity?
  • How the team performs under pressure?
  • How effectively the job gets done?
  • Is the level of quality output on an hourly basis?


A team can grow with leadership. They can minimize weaknesses together and become strengthened as a whole.

Under “Boss Logic,” however, this is almost impossible. Many processes are repeated. There is no unity. And each member does what he is told, as opposed to what is needed. Processes take longer, and the staff works harder, as they become burnt out in the process. 


3. Resources vs. Investments

People are more than just resources. Believe it or not, some bosses still treat their workforce as nothing more than tools, subordinates, and workers, whose only purpose is to get the job done. They prefer robotic processes. They expect hard-work but offer no reward in return. They believe a paycheck is enough and don’t care to motivate their teams one way or another. This philosophy brings about high rates of turnover, low retention, and horrible client relations.

Leaders, nonetheless, take the time to invest in their people and treat each person as the valuable weapon that they are. They show gratitude and demonstrate how each role means everything to the process itself. Each team member is a greater piece of the puzzle. They are essential to the success of each project delivered on behalf of the department. A leader shows how important each team member’s contributions are to the bigger picture and motivates them to become leaders, themselves. They develop their teams and help them evolve into what they can become. 


4. Team vs. Workforce

Although previously addressed in explaining other standpoints, this ideal is of great significance and ultimately telling of the leadership, therein. A team is a group of individuals working together to get the “job” done. A workforce comprises of individual members, who are expected to carry out only the job that was assigned to them, as part of a larger project, overall.


5. Respect vs. Fear-Mongering 

Bosses are often characterized as demanding respect, instead of leading the team from within. Their focus is on workplace politics, climbing the corporate ladder and long-term job security – to Hell with anyone else. There is a sense of selfishness, entitlement, or even a lack of experience amongst those categorized as “a boss.”  Teams tend to quit when the going gets tough, often feeling threatened when the boss does just about everything to get what he wants.

In a much sharper contrast, you have a dedicated leader. Someone who’s also is a team-player, a bit more experienced and selfless. He is quite influential and has earned the respect of his team, outright. They just can’t let him down and will go above and beyond to show that they are worthy of the trust and compassion that he provides. His teams are more loyal, and they grow together over time. Retention is high and turnover low.


6. Long-term vs. Short-term Success

Given the domineering nature of bosses in the workplace, you can almost imagine that while they are in it for the longterm, they will often only achieve the most short-term of success. There are only so many people that will come and go before someone in HR realizes that this person doesn’t know what they are doing. Sure, they are getting the job done, but they are also wasting a ton of money in the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding of disgruntled employees. The opposite is true for most leaders in the field. Many of these individuals will be nominated for promotion at some point of their tenure.


7. People vs. Results

Bosses are more focused on the end-result and a little less on the process or the people within the process. A leader, ironically, puts people first and finds immediate solutions, often driving the bottom-line, directly. They make decisions based on observation while allowing their experiences to guide them. Bosses live to meet quota, carry-out daily tasks, and produce an end-result. Leaders manifest a vision, unifying teams, and securing the long-term success of the organization, overall. They see what needs to be done, so they do it, and it gets done.

Bosses tend to be in the here and now. Instead of focusing on the “what could be,” they are more worried about quota and how much they will accomplish at the end of the workday. Leaders, however, will take the time to develop their workforce. They teach them new skills and strengthen them for the future – as a whole – with the weakest link creating balance, where the top performer tends to fall short.


8. Superiors vs. Equals

Bosses think of themselves as superiors but not often as equals. Leaders lead from within and influence by example. Leaders learn more about their team by working at their side. They can better identify strengths and weaknesses while working in a more hands-on capacity. Bosses rely on analysts and their superiors to address that which is amiss across operations. They look at their staff as their subordinates and don’t wish to develop more personal, long-lasting relationships with those that they work. A leader, on the other hand, thrives by doing just that.



Can bosses become leaders? Of course, they can be. But, they must be willing to learn and ready to grow. It’s an uphill battle and a constant adventure. They must understand that influence is the most effective form of leadership to date.

According to John C. Maxwell, to meet just one person during your whole life would equate to influencing 15K or more people, stemming only from that one person. If just one chance meeting and one conversation could bring something so powerful, could you imagine the power you have to influence your workforce directly – to influence teams? To influence other leaders? To create a positive impact on operations?

By making someone do something, as opposed to making them want to do something, a boss stands to stir up resentment, which is simply a disaster just waiting to happen. Whether that person calls it quits and walks away, they could become a bit disgruntled, productivity could wane, quality might lessen, and performance could drop.



As a trusted partner in recruitment, we help you staff those hard-to-fill positions throughout your corporate hierarchy. Whether you need of an interim leader or a more permanent fixture within your organization, we align leaders to the needs of your corporate culture. Contact us today to find out more!



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