Why a Boss Isn’t Always a Leader

By Antonio Tooley

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

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People confuse words often and then unconsciously maintain an association with them. Once you give the word a stable etiquette, you stop searching for its true meaning and use it as it is without thinking of the negative effects it causes.

“Boss” and “leader” are commonly misinterpreted pairs of words that somehow relate. But as you go deeper, they gain a different meaning.

While a leader can also be a boss, the opposite is not usually possible. People will often make a mistake by referring to a great leader as a boss.

The word boss comes from Dutch culture, and it means “master” or “beholder.” The word “leadership” comes from the ancient word “leith”, which meant “to go forth and die.” The “roots” clearly show a difference between the two concepts.

By the mid-19th century in the USA, the term “boss” quickly replaced the term “master”, which gained negative meanings over time because of slavery. Now, if we think about our modern society, we can clearly spot differences between a leader and a boss.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, a leader is always better than a boss.

Here are some key differences explained.

Keep in mind that the first part of the comparisons always refers to the “boss,” while the second refers to the “leader.”

You See Them As a “Boss” vs. You See Them As a Colleague

If you go to work and your first thought is, “Oh, I hope my boss is not mad today”, there’s a problem. Bosses tend to intimidate you, just like bullies did in school unconsciously. The problem is that a boss does this consciously just in order to prove their position.

They create fear, and people never react well to it. On the other hand, a good leader will treat you as their equal, so there’s no such association as, “What if he’s going to pick on me again?”

This is the reason why so many employees go to work and perform pathetically. Bad performance means poor results, and then the whole business goes down the drain as a consequence.

It’s up to the man in charge to create a better atmosphere around the office. This can be accomplished by creating harmony and mutual respect between him and his colleagues.

Keeps You in the Dark vs. Shares Vision and Purpose

While a leader will do everything in their power to inspire and share ideas, a boss will purposefully keep you out of the loop so that you can never question or interfere with their plans.

John F. Kennedy said, “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” This is so true in this case. Employees who are only given minimal information can never reach their full potential.

Boundaries are healthy, but when they become constraints, they begin to limit that person’s traits and motivation. Exceptional leaders offer their vision and purpose. Every member of a leader’s team is aware of the purpose behind the company. And they never give up until that goal is achieved.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals

Here’s the truth.

A company will never work long-term if its mission is short. If the whole organization moves towards a short-term purpose and a short-term plan, things won’t turn out well.

If we take a closer look at the greatest contemporary leaders, we notice that their ideas and goals go beyond what we consider short-term. A true leader knows that focusing on the long term equals great rewards and satisfaction.

What does a boss do? Instead of looking at the bigger picture, they tend to make the wrong choices when it comes to planning and communicating. A boss is usually governed by their own needs, so their plans and goals are often shorter than a leader’s, so the gratifications can come as fast as possible.

They Stay Aside vs. They Get Involved

A bad boss will delegate tasks, offer the necessary information in order for them to be completed, and back out. Their job is over. They commanded, and now they expect results.

A leader’s philosophy is quite different. While they also delegate tasks to their team (notice that I’ve mentioned team), they immediately take the initiative and show how it’s done.

Why do you think army leaders always stay in the front? That proves that they care, so the followers will also care. If the man in charge is always there, being helpful whenever you need them, your chances of performing a better job significantly increase.

Impersonal vs. Compassionate

Your “boss” will never care why you’re late. Do you know why? Because it’s not their problem. They never get involved so much in order to actually want to know what happened. Let’s be honest; you can’t be perfect at work like you’re not perfect in life. But some bosses never understand this concept.

Let’s take Napoleon, for example. His leadership skills are known worldwide. Did you know that he used to learn the names of every soldier he had? It is said that Napoleon Bonaparte was calling all of his army members by their names. Now, why would he do that?

The psychology behind this caring attitude made him a highly successful conqueror and leader. When a leader is being “there,” and he actually acknowledges and speaks to you as an equal, only then will you see him as worth “fighting for”.


As we’ve discussed, differences exist, and it’s important to gain awareness of them. If you’re in a position of charge, you should really analyze your managerial tactics and your relationship with your employees. See if you fall into the boss category and immediately decide to change.

If you look more like a boss instead of a leader, that should be a big warning sign. Not only for yourself but also for the organization and people you have behind you.

Start taking steps towards being a true leader, and leave the old and disempowering tactics behind you starting now.

What Makes a Boss vs. a Leader?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Antonio Tooley
Antonio Tooley
Antonio is a blogger at the online writing service EduGeeksClub. He loves writing about leadership, personal development and marketing. When not doing that, he’s biking to new places and explores the unknown. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
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