Difference Between a Leader and a Boss

difference between a leader and a boss

The skill of leading isn’t easy. Everyone who has power knows how to be a boss, but not all are leaders. Working for a boss who doesn’t know how to lead can be challenging. It results in a workplace where authority is based solely on position, instead of skills and influence. Here are four specific differences between a leader and a boss.

Guides vs. Orders

A boss gives orders. They set tasks, provide directions, and decide deadlines and targets. Bosses set strict rules and often believe they know the best way to do the task, leaving little room for independence.

A leader, on the other hand, guides their team. They offer tools for professional growth, give advice, and foster real teamwork and collaboration. Leaders trust their team to find the most effective way to do their job, meaning they allow them to work independently. Leaders help their team grow their skills and give as much as they receive.

Listens vs. Commands

A typical image of a boss includes giving orders. After all, they’re the ones in charge. However, a boss who only commands and doesn’t listen, is likely not being as effective as they could be. A boss who only talks limits the range of ideas and the progress that can be made.

Leaders, on the other hand, are good listeners and know when to speak or listen. Leaders appreciate the value of everyone’s ideas and encourage their team members to share their thoughts or concerns. Leaders create an environment where everyone can contribute freely.

Goal-Oriented vs. Task-Oriented

A person in charge of a project or a team usually cares about finishing that project. A boss focuses only on completion and meeting the deadline. Unfortunately, that’s all they seem to care about. Once they finish one project, they move onto the next, often forgetting about the previous one.

Leaders, of course, focus on completing tasks, but they also strive towards a bigger goal or vision. They don’t work just to finish something; they work to achieve something. Leaders know how to create a vision that inspires and empowers their team. When they complete a project, it means much more than just ticking a box.

Equal vs. Superior

A boss uses their position to their advantage. If they need someone to do something, they can use the “Because I’m the boss!” card, and they know it. They make it clear to others that they are above them and not on equal ground.

A leader, however, doesn’t exploit their position. Leaders make it clear that everyone is working together and on the same level. They focus on equality, rather than superiority, within the team. While a boss might frequently use “I,” leaders often use “we” in their communication.


If you’re in a position of power, these traits can help ensure you’re being a leader, not just a boss. By showing leadership, you can foster a more positive environment for your team to achieve any goal.