The Difference Between Bosses and Leaders

There are bosses, and there are leaders. Some people may be both: a boss can be a leader, and a leader can be a boss. But no matter which term is used, there are differences between a boss and a leader—and one is definitely better than the other.


According to the dictionary:

Boss: (noun) a person in charge of a worker or organization; (verb) to give (someone) orders in a domineering manner

Leader: (noun) a guiding or directing head; the person who convinces other people to follow; (verb – to lead) to guide on a way, especially by going in advance)

Leaders are preferable to bosses in many ways. They are more respected, they have more satisfied employees—and most importantly, leaders achieve superior results for themselves, their team, and their organization.

What is a boss?

The boss is the person in charge. While bosses have authority over the people under them, every boss also has a boss—whether it’s a higher-up executive, or in the case of CEOs or business owners, either the shareholders or the customers. For the employees who answer to a boss, that boss is the end of the line.

Most commonly, bosses are looking for money, power, or both. They often have little to no concern for the satisfaction of the employees they manage, and will typically look for ways to extract the most work for the least compensation—in other words, they don’t like to give raises or bonuses.

Bosses act as the supreme authority, command respect out of fear, and always have the last say on workplace issues. They drive employees to work harder, without working harder themselves.

What is a leader?

Like a boss, a leader is a person in charge. However, the similarities usually end there. Leaders act as guidance and inspiration for the employees who answer to them. Their motivations are usually to benefit their team members, or the organization as a whole. While they can sometimes act as bosses when a sense of authority is required, they are open to suggestions, and they’re concerned about employee satisfaction.

Leaders gain respect through fairness and communication. They are innovative, helpful, and don’t need to have the last word. They inspire employees to work harder by working harder themselves.

Boss vs. Leader: A comparison of characteristics

According to management experts, the differences between a boss and a leader include:

  • Bosses drive; leaders pitch in
  • Bosses rely on authority; leaders cultivate respect
  • Bosses want productive employees; leaders want happy employees
  • Bosses say “I”; leaders say “we”
  • Bosses inspire fear; leaders inspire enthusiasm
  • Bosses order; leaders ask
  • Bosses take credit; leaders give credit
  • Bosses say “Go”; leaders say “Let’s go”

For people in a position of authority, choosing to be a leader instead of a boss brings several advantages. Employees will naturally work harder for leaders, because they truly respect these inspirational people. As a leader, you’ll have a more productive team, a better image within your organization, and a greater sense of self-worth and personal accomplishment.

Are you a boss, or a leader? The decision is yours to make, and to demonstrate through your leadership style. Contact us today at (513) 651-9500 or by email at to find out more about how we can help you find the talent you need to fill open positions today.

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