Leader vs Boss: 10 Key Differences

Editorial Team

Leader Vs Boss Differences

There exists a sharp contrast between a leader and a boss. Both are mandated to lead others and mostly occupy the top positions in an organization. Both leaders and bosses carry themselves in distinct ways.

Are you a leader or a boss? This article seeks to differentiate these two individuals by pitching them against one another. We will take a look at the definition of a leader, a boss, and their key differences. Let us find out whether your manager is a leader or a boss.

Definition of a Leader

We refer to people as leaders without defining what leadership is. A leader is a person who is capable of seeing how things can be improved and rallies people towards a given vision. A leader puts people first in his/ her quest to better things and achieve results.

Apart from motivating and rallying others towards a common course, a leader is empathetic to his/ her team’s plights and ensures that members are well connected before executing a given task. Therefore, a leader prioritizes unity when working on a given job.

What about a boss? Let’s find out.

Definition Of a Boss

Even though a boss occupies a leadership position, he/ she is a massive contrast to a leader. A boss is someone who has authority over a set of employees. The role of a boss, therefore, stops at management. He/ she is not interested in unity or rallying together other employees towards achieving a common course.

A boss ensures that the organization achieves the set goals without caring much about the employees. They usually demand results and have no room for empathy. Several organizations invest in bosses without realizing that what employees need are leaders. We will see more about what bosses do and how they behave in the course of our discussion.

10 Key Differences Between a Leader and a Boss

The differences between a leader and a boss arise from how they conduct themselves. You will quickly tell a leader from a boss how they handle the employees and go about the organization’s daily activities.

Here are some of the key differences:

1.    A Leader Focuses on Sustainable Solutions; A Boss Wants Quick Fixes

Leadership is about going all out. Leaders know how to handle employees and seek the best results. Bosses mostly tell employees what to do and sit back waiting for results. The employees are always reprimanded if they do not deliver to the boss’s expectation.

On the other hand, a leader does more than just telling. He/ she shows employees how to do things and why they should do them in a certain way. Leaders are not as interested in results as they can be easily achieved with the right training and teaching.

A leader goes all out to ensure that an employee understands why the business does things in a certain way, whereas a leader commands without any explanation and expects obedience. Leaders understand that focusing on the ‘why’ is equally important as the ‘how’ since it creates room for sustainable learning.

Employees can also quickly transfer the ‘why’ to other situations without needing to be told, thus streamlining the organization’s activities. A leader, therefore, pushes for sustainable learning and self-reliance.

2.      Leaders Have a High Emotional Quotient, Whereas Bosses are Controlled By Their Emotions.

A leader is a people expert. He/s he is always empathetic to other people’s plights and understands that employees have different abilities and face specific challenges both at the workplace and home. Leaders understand their employees and are therefore not quick to criticize and ridicule them.

On the other hand, a boss is a subject matter expert. He/ she does not have room for empathy but is mostly concerned about results. Bosses do not take time to connect with their employees emotionally, and therefore, do not create space for their emotions.

Great leaders are sensitive persons, whereas bosses are highly emotional. Leaders, therefore, know how to solve conflicts among employees without making them feel inferior. He/ she will try to get to the root course of the conflict and solve it instead of threatening the employees and leaving them to sort out their issues as a boss would.

Leaders are keen on their reactions. They do not allow their emotions to control them and dictate how they reply or talk to employees. A leader knows what to say and how to say it when disappointed.

3.      Leaders Are Concerned about Employee Success, Whereas Bosses Only Care About Saving Their Image.

A leader wants employees to feel successful in the execution of their duties. They ensure that the employees feel celebrated and respected and that their efforts are noticed even when they fail. They do not spend hours criticizing and hurling insults, which may negatively damage employees.

On the other hand, a boss does not care whether the employee feels successful or not. They want them to perform well for their success or that of the organization. Remember that in most cases, leaders take all the credit for success.

Therefore, a boss is interested in saving his/ her skin. He/ she will always push employees to work hard and succeed and thus save image. Leaders do not take all the credit for success. They understand that it is a joint effort and links individual success to the final results.

A leader understands that achievements that do not consider how employees feel are not worth celebrating. He/ she will always motivate them to give their all while showing them how they can do things for the best results.

4.      Leaders Drive Employees To Be Accountable, Bosses Hold Them Accountable. 

Bosses are generally focused on the results and therefore hold employees accountable all the time. They do not have time to interact with them and build passion and confidence that drives them to give their best.

On the other hand, a leader is close to the employees and grows confidence and passion from within them, which helps them build self-accountability. Self-accountability makes employees feel accountable for their actions, devoid of supervision.

A self-accountable employee will do everything in his/her power not to fail. This is quite different from what bosses do. They push the employees to show results without caring about self-accountability or instilling confidence in them.

Leadership dictates that the workforce should feel respected and heard, which gives them the zeal and passion as they go about their duties. Pressurizing employees to achieve as bosses do is usually not the best means of driving results.

5.      Leaders and Bosses Measure Success Differently  

There is no fixed measure of success. However, the way a leader and boss measure success separate the two. Bosses mostly measure their success by their title or managerial hierarchy. They, therefore, deem themselves as achievers because of their job titles or positions.

Bosses feel that they are allowed to act authoritatively due to their positions because they are still on top at the end of the day. Leaders, on the other hand, care less about their positions, title, or offices. They do not attach any value to the intricacies of their roles.

They care about influencing others and, therefore, strive to leave a mark everywhere, and in everyone they come across. To them, success lies in the passion and impact they have on the under them.

They carry themselves like other employees and do not go to great lengths to prove they are in power like bosses do. As we mentioned, you will know a boss and a leader just from how they handle themselves in their daily to daily activities.

6.      Bosses are Authoritative. Leaders Influence.

Bosses highly depend on their authority to get things moving in the organization. They do not hold back threats and other means of instilling fear to get the employees working. They are always willing to do anything that their power allows to get the employees cooperating.

On the other hand, leaders rely on influence. They influence the employees to deliver. They lead by example, making their subordinates self-accountable and willing to succeed. This is by far one of the most significant differences between a boss and a leader.

Leaders do not depend on their authority. They do not issue threats or appear all-knowing and unapproachable to get things going. To them, positional power is just a name, and ends remain at their office desks when dealing with other employees.

Leadership influence, therefore, works devoid of power or position. One can be a leader without exerting any authority or even having subordinates.

7.      Bosses Focus on the Now ‘now’. Leaders Care About The Long Term.

Bosses are mainly interested in what is happening at the moment. They focus on putting out the daily fires and smashing daily goals without a thought of what happens tomorrow. They mostly live in the moment, which is not conducive for organizations.

A leader stays focused while perpetually doing what is right. He/ she understands that results are not achieved overnight and depend on the little inputs. Everything a leader does is therefore focused on the long term.

Leaders, therefore, ensure that their decisions stand amidst the chaos for better results. They live by what is right and are not influenced by certain occurrences that may appear lucrative and therefore tempting to pursue.

Keep in mind that one of the determinants of success is standing by what is right amidst and past the chaos. This is the reason why leaders are more successful than bosses in all organizations.

8.      Leaders are Interested in Their Legacies. Bosses Only Care About Competition. 

Leaders operate by their legacies. They are more interested in what will be said about their time and whether they will leave a good reputation once their tenure is done. Keep in mind that a good legacy sets the pace for the next leader.

 Therefore, they shy away from making bad decisions that may compromise their legacies. They follow the footsteps that they have created over time when making business decisions without caring about their competitors.

On the other hand, bosses are more interested in the competition. They will not shy away from making bad decisions to get at their competitors. This further confirms that bosses are short-sighted and are mostly concerned about the ‘now’ and not what the future holds and dictates.

This does not mean that leaders do not care about competition. However, they do not wholly focus on the competition but also look at their legacy. Leaders operate with a legacy definition in mind, which sees them making the right decisions for their organizations amidst several storms or chaos.

A leader focuses on what must be done for a good legacy.

9.    They Have Different Sources of Motivation

The source of motivation differentiates a leader from a boss. Leaders are mostly motivated by passion and purpose. Therefore, they understand that they ought to influence their subordinates to be passionate about their roles for success.

On the other hand, bosses are driven by fear. They are always looking for means of saving their image or organization. They are also driven by reaction, given their emotional intolerance. They will act first without thinking in many occasions, especially when dealing with employees.

Leaders are not focused on their image. They know all it takes to get the employees motivated and going about their roles. They have the power to influence, slowing them to act as examples to the people under them.

A leader is passionate about his position and everything he/ she manages. One will see this from how he/ she deals with the employees or tackles his day to day activities. You can quickly identify a leader and a boss in challenging times such as business change and transformation.

10.  Motive

A leader wants employees to be more successful than him/ her, whereas a boss always wants to be the boss. Some even end up competing with and frustrating employees they feel are challenging their authority.


Despite occupying leadership positions, leaders and bosses are two different people. While one is driven by purpose and passion, the other wants to save his/ her image. Therefore, you can establish whether you are a leader or a boss from our discussion. Always strive to be a leader and not a boss.