Businesswoman presenting to colleagues at a meeting
ATD Blog

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

What does it mean to be a leader? Is it a title bestowed upon you by your job or is it a characteristic you work hard to develop? Most of us understand there is a difference between being a boss and being a leader. “Boss” is a title given to you while “leader” is a descriptor you have to earn. Bosses practice their golf putt in their offices while workers try to keep the company afloat; leaders are down in the trenches working with their teams to achieve a common goal. Leadership can make or break an organization, and the good news is that leadership skills can be cultivated to help your business run more smoothly.

When workers talk about the differences between good and bad bosses, they are talking about people who have leadership qualities versus those who are just in charge. Bad managers are described as self-absorbed, selfish, lazy, rude, arrogant, and untrustworthy. Good managers described as leaders are characterized as honest, supportive, trustworthy, respectful, and communicative. The differences matter. Seventy-seven percent of people with bad managers plan to quit their jobs within the next year compared to the 18 percent of those with good managers. Turnover is costly but having a company culture based around surviving the whims of a bad manager is even worse.

To be a better leader, you must take stock of your company’s mission and clearly articulate priorities to your team. If you’re not passionate about what you are doing, it will show. Your passion will be contagious to your team, and they will follow your example, including when you hold yourself to the same standards as everyone else. Don’t be too rigid, though; reassess from time to time to determine where changes can and should be implemented to make the company mission more sustainable and achievable. Generally, a leader will take care of the bigger tasks and trust the smaller ones to the employees, but it’s important to remember that when someone comes to you with a problem, it’s all important.

For leadership to effectively work, you have to cultivate the right team. Hire people who have skills that are different from your own and empower them to do their jobs with as little interference as possible. Micromanaging is the sign of a weak boss, and leaders know that the people hired to do the job were hired because they could do the job. Delegating authority to those working for you frees you up to focus on more pressing matters. The essence of teamwork is that everyone is working together using their specific skills to accomplish a shared goal. When that goal is accomplished, share the credit as well. Leaders recognize that no one gets to the top alone.


What does it take to be a highly effective leader? Learn more about developing leadership skills and the importance of being a leader instead of a boss below.

The Habits of Effective Leaders
Source: Online PhD Degrees

About the Author

Maggie Kimberl is a freelance writer and lover of infographics based in Louisville, Kentucky. You can find her on Twitter @LouGirl502.

1 Comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Thanks for this - all so true! I have to admit, though, I'm still always surprised by how poor leadership (Heads of People/HR) continues to show up in these positions. I'm wondering if some are still 'stuck' in the obsolete, traditional HR (mitigates risk for the company) versus more progressive paradigms.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.