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7 Ways to Be a Leader, Not a Boss

by | Nov 10, 2021

Do you lead people, or do you just tell them what you want done without any consideration or explanation? Is the feedback you provide actionable, or do you use criticism to protect your ego? More importantly, do you consider yourself to be a leader or a boss?

In my own work experience, it was always a thrill to work for leaders rather than a boss. Unfortunately, bosses dominate the ranks in the workplace with far too few true leaders at the helm.

Since leaders seem to be in short supply, you can really make a name for yourself by becoming a great leader. You’ll enjoy more career opportunities, have better relationships with your colleagues and your organization will enjoy greater success.

Here are seven ways you can become a more effective leader, rather than a boss:
  1. Leads with excitement. A boss likes to sit on the sidelines and allow others to do the hard work. A leader is out front with excitement, as an example, showing his people the way. And more importantly, the leader is bringing their expectations to life.
  2. Drives a purpose, rather than just profit. To a boss, the mission and goal is all about profits. The leader recognizes that people must be inspired and given ownership, which gives them a reason to go above and beyond, which ultimately increase profits.
  3. Empower. A boss micromanages. A leader trusts their team members, but a boss will struggle to relinquish any control. Leaders surround themselves with people that complement their weaknesses and a boss surround themselves with people that will not make them feel threatened. Team members are ok with not shining too much when they have a boss.
  4. Values respect. On the surface, a leader and a boss look the same, but the differences are obvious. A leader is willing to use his enthusiasm, skill, and expertise to encourage others to respect and follow him. A boss wants to be feared. And a boss uses fear, intimidation of titles and threats to gain compliance. Those who follow a boss secretly want them to fail. Yes, read that again.
  5. Develops new leaders. A boss is afraid of the competition. Leaders share their knowledge and experience to grow other leaders. A boss is afraid they’ll be replaced and is too self-centered to be concerned about the career aspiration of their team members.
  6. Motivates. A boss manipulates. Leaders know that no two team members are the same. They know their employees well enough to know how to inspire them. A boss simply says, “It is what it is and this is what needs to be done. You can always look for another job if you don’t like it here.”
  7. Takes responsibility. A boss will always find someone to blame. With a leader, when the team fails, the leader is still out in front taking the brunt of the criticism and protecting the team. A boss is usually trying to excuse himself of as much responsibility as possible.


Think back over your own work history. Did you work with more leaders or more bosses? Do you remember those encounters and the relationships? Were you excited and inspired or were you demotivated and disengaged in the workplace?

Now that you know the differences, add these seven ways to your leadership development toolbox. And when applied correctly, you can enjoy more career opportunities, you’ll be investing in the next generation of leaders, and your organizations will enjoy greater success as well.


The Blue Hen team has decades of experience helping organizations succeed. Reach out to us today to learn how we can help you win. Behind every champion, there’s a Blue Hen.