Can You Tell the Difference Between a Boss and a Leader?

Can you distinguish between a boss and a leader?

Better question – are you a boss or a leader?

Frankly, I hate the term boss. Whenever someone refers to me as their boss I almost feel like I’m doing something wrong as a leader. I want to ask forgiveness for making me think I’m the boss.

There are so many differences between a boss and a leader.

A boss seems to have all the answers, even if they really don’t.
A leader solicits input, leads a collaborative effort, to arrive at the right answer.

A boss tells people what to do.
A leader enlists the support of others.

A boss can be intimidating – if only by title.
A leader may challenge people, but should be encouraging – even during correction.

A boss dictates their own way.
A leader delegates the way to others.

A boss demands results.
A leader inspires others to succeed.

A boss controls through systems and processes.
A leader spurs ideas, creativity, and ingenuity.

A boss manages closely guarded policies.
A leader enables change, adapting policies as needed.

There is only one boss in any organization.
The best organizations have many leaders.

People follow a leader willingly. You have to pay someone to follow a boss.

In fairness, there are times even the best leaders have to be the boss. Even the “bad guy” boss – at least in other people’s perception. Being a leader doesn’t mean you allow poor quality of work to prevail. There are times a leader has to micromanage. We need good systems and processes.

But whenever possible, I much prefer to be a leader.

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This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.

Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson

Ron Edmondson is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. He revitalized two churches and planted two more.