Are You a Boss or a Leader?

The 4 ways you can tell if you're more of a boss or a leader to your employees.
August 02, 2013

As a small-business owner, you likely have at least a few people reporting to you. And the way you manage these people, as a boss or as a leader, can greatly affect your business and company's culture. 

Both types of managers can be successful if expectations are clearly communicated. I’ve had good bosses and bad leaders. If you are in a managerial position, take time to decide on whether you want to be a boss or a leader. You can’t be both. Indecision will dilute your efforts and cost you the respect of the people working for you. There is nothing worse or more confusing to employees than a boss who suddenly tries to be a leader or vice versa.

So, how do you know what your management style is? Consider these four areas of management, and how you act in each.

1. Expectations

As a boss, you have certain expectations of the people reporting to you. Every day, week or month, you hand out assignments with deadlines and expect the work to be done in the allotted time and at the level or standards that you’ve set for your workers. For their efforts, the workers receive compensation and possibly a bonus or commission for exceeding their goals.

As a leader, to quote Simon Sinek, “You start with why.” You establish a higher purpose for the work that’s being done by your company. You want your employees to believe that their individual jobs play an integral role in the success of your business. You instill in them that they are part of a team.   

2. Leadership

As a boss, there is only one person in charge and that person is you. Employees view the workplace as all business and those hours are “prime time.” People come to work to make money for the company. Everyone has a job to do and you are the person in charge of the crew.

As a leader, you seek to empower members of your team by delegating responsibilities to them. You value their input as you choose the path for your company. You (and your employees) understand that it’s okay to make mistakes—just not costly ones, or the same ones twice. Additionally, as a leader, you may choose to mentor a select group of people on your team by spending extra time with them to help develop their own leadership qualities.  

3. Morale

The only time a boss is concerned with morale is when it affects output. If poor morale is an issue, then a smart boss will nip it in the bud immediately. Typically, it means someone will be put on probation or possibly fired on the spot. Bosses have no time for personal matters. They don’t want to be friends with their employees, and they don’t discuss what happens outside the workplace. Family matters and personal conflicts are to be kept out of the office.

Leaders typically want high morale because a happy team is a productive team. But great leaders recognize that conflicts will arise at work and the worst thing they can do is sweep them under the rug. Like bosses, they want to eliminate distractions, but more importantly, they want to deal with the root cause of the distraction and not just the immediate problem. Great leaders will take the necessary time to work through issues with members of their team because it is what works best for the long term. Leaders invest their time, knowledge and resources into the members of their team.

4. Security

Most bosses are insecure. The insecurity can range from slight to openly paranoid, but a boss always believes at least one person on his or her team is untrustworthy. A boss will usually take credit for successes and place blame for failures. They aren’t interested in being popular; they want to win and stay in control. These are their two most important objectives.

Leaders, on the other hand, are secure in who they are and their ability to achieve certain objectives. They are confident enough to give credit to their team for a job well done and take responsibility when they lose business or miss an opportunity.  

What type of owner are you? A boss or a leader? Let us know why it works for you.

Read more articles on leadership.

 Photo: iStockphoto