15 Big Differences Between Acting Like a Boss and BEING a Leader

In fast paced, high stress business environments it can be all too easy sometimes for leaders to slip into what I call “Boss Man” mode.

What I mean by that is that they stop being a leader, and start acting like a boss.

A boss who supervises a staff.

The staff reports to the boss, just like it says on the organizational chart.

And they do exactly what the boss says, because, of course,  He’s the boss!

In other words, the leader becomes a not-so-pleasant person that creates a not-so-enjoyable work environment, and brings progress to a screeching halt.

Therefore it’s really important that we recognize the 15 most significant differences between Boss Man syndrome and real leadership, so we can avoid a rapid descent into mediocrity or failure.

  • A boss only sees things in black and white, while the leader also sees the grey
  • A boss likes to tell, while the leader prefers to teach
  • A boss likes being on a pedestal, above the fray, while the leader likes to be among those they lead
  • A boss gets lost in the details, while the leader keeps the big picture
  • A boss rules by fear, while the leader inspires with trust
  • A boss displays great hubris, while the leader shows quiet humility
  • A boss likes to talk, while the leader prefers to listen
  • A boss wants to dictate, while the leader would rather collaborate
  • A boss outlines the “What”, while the leader also always explains the “Why”
  • A boss thinks first about profit, while the leader thinks first about people
  • A boss gets lost in process, while the leader gets absorbed in performance
  • A boss is a disabler, while the leader is an enabler
  • A boss criticizes, while the leader coaches
  • A boss manages to an end, while the leader serves for a purpose
  • A boss demotivates with impassiveness, while a leader inspires with caring & empathy

Keep this list handy, or better yet, post it on your personal bulletin board as you continue on your leadership journey, so you can recognize any Boss Man tendencies and stop them in their tracks.

BE a leader, not a boss!

Update 2/25/13: Download a FREE mini-poster based on this post HERE

Update 7/17/13:  See me on video talking about these differences HERE

Comments

  1. Nathalie says

    Spot on by one exception. I would rather say ‘A boss thinks first about profit, while the leader knows by putting people first, profit will follow” instead of ‘A boss thinks first about profit, while the leader thinks first about people’. A great leader still focuses on the purpose of the company, but helps the people connect their purpose to the one of the company. Having a purpose and a clear story about it, attracts the right people and the right customers and makes them happy. Results will follow, be it profit or anything else you want to achieve.
    You probably meant the same, for me this makes it more clear.

  2. says

    Hi Nathalie, thanks for your comment. I like your amendment to this list, because you are absolutely right – if the people are put first, the profits will indeed follow. I also agree on your point on connecting the needs (and/or purpose) of the person with the needs of the company. Thanks again, and all the best!
    Terry

  3. J D Hewitt says

    I would say that the Boss is obsessed/motivated by profit – it is the main reason for doing his job.

    He is usually driven by staistics and has little knowledge of people skill. Thank for the list I think I should show it to my “boss.”

  4. In between says

    Ok last year went from being a regular employee, this year Asst. director. I was very reluctant to take the position. At first all was well, thought I was leading, now I feel likes boss. Much damage caused to employees moral. Won’t take all the responsibility, but definetly feel I have caused much. I feel aweful, cause the owner is not around & I became the “heavy”. It’s contract renewal time, not sure if leadership/boss is good for me or company. Thinking of stepping down or going back to my old position. I took the position to help make positive changes, it seems the results are opposite. Signed, stuck inbetween

  5. says

    Hi in between, thanks for sharing your story here. Leadership isn’t for everybody, and if you’re not happy in that role of playing the boss’s “heavy”, than perhaps a change is best, unless you can work with your owner to allow you to make the positive changes you desire. I wish you all the best as you work through this situation, and thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    Terry

Trackbacks

  1. [...] In fast paced, high stress business environments it can be all too easy sometimes for leaders to slip into what I call “Boss Man” mode. What I mean by that is that they stop being a leader, and startacting like a boss. A boss who supervises a staff. The staff reports to the boss, just like it says on the organizational chart.And they do exactly what the boss says, because, of course, “He’s the boss!“In other words, the leader becomes a not-so-pleasant person that creates a not-so-enjoyable work environment, and brings progress to a screeching halt. Therefore it’s really important that we recognize the 15 most significant differences between Boss Man syndrome and real leadership, so we can avoid a rapid descent into mediocrity or failure.  [...]

  2. [...] In fast paced, high stress business environments it can be all too easy sometimes for leaders to slip into what I call “Boss Man” mode. What I mean by that is that they stop being a leader, and start acting like a (bad) boss. A boss who supervises a staff. The staff reports to the boss, just like it says on the organizational chart.And they do exactly what the boss says, because, of course, “He’s the boss!“  [...]

  3. [...] In fast paced, high stress business environments it can be all too easy sometimes for leaders to slip into what I call “Boss Man” mode. What I mean by that is that they stop being a leader, and start acting like a (bad) boss. A boss who supervises a staff. The staff reports to the boss, just like it says on the organizational chart.And they do exactly what the boss says, because, of course, “He’s the boss!“  [...]

  4. [...] In fast paced, high stress business environments it can be all too easy sometimes for leaders to slip into what I call “Boss Man” mode. What I mean by that is that they stop being a leader, and start acting like a (bad) boss. A boss who supervises a staff. The staff reports to the boss, just like it says on the organizational chart.And they do exactly what the boss says, because, of course, “He’s the boss!“  [...]

  5. [...] In fast paced, high stress business environments it can be all too easy sometimes for leaders to slip into what I call “Boss Man” mode. What I mean by that is that they stop being a leader, and start acting like a (bad) boss. A boss who supervises a staff. The staff reports to the boss, just like it says on the organizational chart.And they do exactly what the boss says, because, of course, “He’s the boss!“  [...]

  6. [...] In fast paced, high stress business environments it can be all too easy sometimes for leaders to slip into what I call “Boss Man” mode. What I mean by that is that they stop being a leader, and start acting like a (bad) boss. A boss who supervises a staff. The staff reports to the boss, just like it says on the organizational chart.And they do exactly what the boss says, because, of course, “He’s the boss!“  [...]

  7. [...] In fast paced, high stress business environments it can be all too easy sometimes for leaders to slip into what I call “Boss Man” mode. What I mean by that is that they stop being a leader, and start acting like a (bad) boss. A boss who supervises a staff. The staff reports to the boss, just like it says on the organizational chart.And they do exactly what the boss says, because, of course, “He’s the boss!“  [...]

  8. [...] In fast paced, high stress business environments it can be all too easy sometimes for leaders to slip into what I call “Boss Man” mode. What I mean by that is that they stop being a leader, and start acting like a (bad) boss. A boss who supervises a staff. The staff reports to the boss, just like it says on the organizational chart.And they do exactly what the boss says, because, of course, “He’s the boss!“  [...]

  9. [...] In fast paced, high stress business environments it can be all too easy sometimes for leaders to slip into what I call “Boss Man” mode. What I mean by that is that they stop being a leader, and start acting like a (bad) boss. A boss who supervises a staff. The staff reports to the boss, just like it says on the organizational chart.And they do exactly what the boss says, because, of course, “He’s the boss!“  [...]

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