Rant Relationships Self Improvement Thinking Work

Boss vs. Leader

It’s been said that “people quit bosses, not jobs” – and I wanted to look at that idea.

Boss v. Leader
I never thought about the importance of the terms/labels until much later in life – but I think there are important distinctions.
When I think of “boss”, it brings forth ideas of being told what to do with no choice in the matter and no room for conversation as to whether that task is relevant, necessary, or the process could be improved upon. Boss seems like such a negative or harsh title in comparison to leader.
When I think of “leader” it brings forth the idea of someone asking you to take part, or to do something, but remaining open to collaboration and dialogue. Also (to me) it makes me think of someone who has done what they are asking of me before, and who has the experience to warrant the request.

In both my military and civilian work experience I have faced “bosses” and I have met “leaders”. In retrospect – I can tell that the opening quote of this post has been true for me, where I have most certainly quit jobs, or positions, because of the people I worked for. The work itself was never too much, too demanding or under compensated; it was truly the people “in charge” who made it worthwhile to stay or not. I have worked in positions that I did not love the work – but I respected and admired my leadership so much that I stayed.

I could go on and on about the bad – but I think it’s better to take from all the experiences the lessons and areas of growth. From all those experiences (good and bad) I learned some important workplace fundamentals, such as:

1. Yelling and screaming will never be an effective workplace tool. I had a boss in the military who loved to scream and get in people’s faces (it was an office, not the battle field) and it was just absurd. Seemed completely unwarranted and frankly, just silly.

2. There is a difference between respect and fear. Making employees scared will only prohibit effective dialogue and get mediocre productivity.

3. Understanding and getting to know people on a (slight) personal level can clarify many behaviors or interactions. Maybe an employee isn’t comfortable with public recognition, then meet them where they are and don’t force them to. They will likely work harder and produce more if you work to allow (within reason) their own comfort to be considered.

4. Recognize people, and soon! Everyone wants to feel “seen” and especially when they’ve done something well. Don’t let a month go by before you say “well done” to someone, even if you’re using that time to plan something bigger in which to recognize them with – just let them know their work was appreciated. *See #3 above and remember to do it in a way that is MEANINGFUL to the individual, not just a boilerplate thing that is the same for everyone.

5. Speak less than you want to/feel. Take the “3 second pause” before opening your mouth and let people (who want to talk) fill in the gaps – there’s much to learn in what fills those spaces. You may hear details you weren’t aware of, and conversely you might see that the person truly doesn’t understand the project – but whatever happens, it will likely be enlightening.

6. Just respond. Fully ignoring someone (or their email) is just rude. I acknowledge that I leverage my silence/attention in the workplace to ensure my own needs are met (with regard to my workload and time) – however I will always respond so that there’s no ambiguity. I’d rather a person know up front if I can’t accommodate their request or I won’t be able to meet a deadline. Even if you are saying no – just respond and do so before moving on, forgetting, or just being rude.

7. Ask people’s opinions. Great ideas come from all places, so open the door to that conversation. Large paychecks and/or high rank does NOT mean the ideas are better or worth more. Ask people who DO the work. Ask the people who are actually a part of the experience.

8. Set boundaries. Leaders know how to both have an “open door policy” but also how to close that door and take their lunch, how to leave at the end of their eight hours and decompress. The balance of a leader allows them to be the best for their employees and customers.

What do you think, are leaders and bosses the same thing? Have you experienced strong or poor management that caused you to leave a job?


By DreamerSD

Life enthusiast

One reply on “Boss vs. Leader”

Well said! This is a great post, and a far cry from the usual virtue-signalling normally seen in familiar Linkedin pages. I completely agree with #5 – Speak less than you want to/feel.

I often find that if you arrive to a meeting well prepped (i.e you have completed all your relevant tasks / readings, and are comfortable with the agenda items and purpose / aim of the meeting) there is an whole lot you can learn by listening to others. Oftentimes you will find that you are one of few, if not the only person who has comes as prepared, and it shines through.

Leaders differ from bosses only in terms of perspective. Bosses are thought of as such due to organisational structure. They have direct reports. Leaders, in my opinion, become so through their actions – facilitating others to succeed.

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