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Boss vs Leader: What Does Your Team Need?

Boss vs Leader: What Does Your Team Need?

How does your team need you, the one in the team leadership role, to show up to succeed? Is it as a boss or a leader?

The terms boss and leader are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference in how a boss vs. a leader manages those around them and how their accountabilities at work are fulfilled. Depending on the team you lead, the organizational culture, and the activities your team performs there may be the need for one or the other. But how do you know what type of manager you should show up as? And if you tend to be one way or the other, how do you change?


Difference Between a Boss and Leader

Boss vs. leader comes down to differing management styles. Bosses tend to use an authoritarian management style, where giving directions and retaining control is the hallmark of how they manage. Whereas a leader typically uses a democratic management style that seeks input from others and inspires those around them by making employees feel valued and involved.


Do you know what your leadership style is? If not, take this quiz to find out!


Common Traits of a Boss vs Leader

Categorization helps us understand the world around us and how an individual of a group may behave. This requires the generalization of what qualities are shared by members of the group. Can someone have traits in both categories? Absolutely. For examining the difference between a boss vs. a leader, here are the generalization of traits for both.


Common Traits of a Boss

  • Process-driven
  • Expects others to follow rules, regulations, policies, and procedures
  • Top-down leadership
  • Uses formal authority to make things happen
  • They are the subject matter expert
  • Makes decisions on their own
  • Gives directions


Common Traits of a Leader

  • Possess a coaching mentality that believes in the potential of their people
  • Seeks input from those around them before making a decision
  • Takes time to explain their rationale or thought process
  • Inspires others to take action
  • Values diversity of thought
  • Empowers others to make decisions on their own and gives them autonomy
  • Believe each individual has the power to shape the future of the organization


When Does Your Team Need A Boss vs a Leader?

Different industries, organizations, and teams require different management styles. Some teams need a boss and others need a leader, as well as different situations, may require one or the other.


When Does a Team need a boss?

In high-stress, high-risk situations such as one would experience in the military, during an active crime situation, or flying an airplane, having a person in charge who is making the decisions and giving directions makes a lot of sense. In these situations, there needs to be command and control leadership as there is no time to come to a consensus, lives are on the line, and decisions need to be made decisively.


When does a team need a leader? 

In general, individuals and teams tend to respond better, be more engaged, motivated, and productive when the one in charge is a leader vs. a boss. In the majority of situations, a team wants a leader. Leaders can operate in an environment where there is time and a lack of physical harm or risk, which provides them with the opportunity to inspire others through discussion and debate solutions, answer and ask questions, give and seek feedback, and coach and empower those on their team to think and make decisions on their own.


Conclusion: Develop your leadership skills with Niagara institute

Making the shift from exhibiting traits of a boss to being a leader others want to work for requires developing a range of people management skills. Attending a leadership development program where the leadership training topics focus on skills development in collaboration, inspirational communication, delegation, empowerment, delivering constructive feedback and coaching is a great first step. Becoming self-aware of how you show up for your team, and intentionally taking steps to move in the more desirable direction by working with a leadership coach is a complementary solution to attending leadership training.

Do You Know Your Leadership Style? Take This Quiz and Find Out Now

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