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Boss or Leader: What Is the Difference?

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She researches and shares remedies for using certain products for illnesses.

What is the difference between a boss and a leader?

What is the difference between a boss and a leader?

Definitions of Boss and Leader

According to the dictionary, a boss is a person in charge of others in the workplace. They are responsible for giving assignments, setting schedules and approving leave for those under his authority.

A leader, on the other hand, is the person who leads or oversees a group in the workplace or organization.

With those two definitions in mind, it is safe to say that a boss bosses people while a leader leads people.

How to Talk Like a Boss (Or Converse Like a Leader)

The conversations of a boss are quite different from the conversations of a leader. A boss tends to believe it is all about him and his position. In his conversations, he tends to say, "I," "me," "my," "mine," and myself."

A leader involves others in his conversations. He focuses on shared responsibility. The evidence is recognized in his conversations. Leaders frequently say, "We," "us," "our," and "ours." This is different from what a boss says.

A leader involves others in his conversations.

A leader involves others in his conversations.

How Bosses and Leaders Differ in the Treatment of Employees

A boss drives and pushes with invisible chains. A leader knows those under his leadership will do more if there is encouragement along the way. While people who work for a boss do so in fear, those who work for a leader do so with confidence.

A boss is more interested in completing projects than in keeping morale among his workers.

A boss relies on his authority. However, a leader knows he can trust employees to get the job done right in a timely manner. He usually gets complete cooperation from those under his leadership.

Different Approaches to Relationships

A boss rules over the workforce with an iron fist. A leader knows he can get things done by working alongside his employees.

A boss is not interested in fostering relationships and establishing rapport. In fact, he often pits employees against other employees. An effective leader believes in establishing relationships among his employees.

A boss plays favorites. He even makes himself part of workplace cliches. A leader doesn't play favorites under any circumstances. He makes everyone feel worthwhile.

Bosses Boss, Leaders Lead: Different Approaches

A boss tells workers how a job should be done and expects them to do it on time without making mistakes. A leader shows others how a job should be done. He often works along with them until they get the hang of it. Then he follows up without being intrusive.

A boss places blame and doesn't take responsibility for his mistakes. However, he has no problem taking the credit when things go right. A leader shares the blame as well as the credit.

Working for some bosses is no picnic. However, it is a joy to work with a leader who typically cares about those under his authority.

Bosses Vs. Leaders


Says "I, me, my, mine, myself"

Says "We, us, our, ours, ourselves"

Creates fear

Inspires confidence

More interested in projects

Interested in people

Takes credit when things go well

Shares credit for job well done

More about profits

More about productivity

Doesn't care about rapport and relationships

Fosters relationships

Have favorites

Treats everyone the same



Casts blame

Corrects without casting blame

Points out weaknesses

Recognizes strengths

Downplay natural gifts

Embraces gifts and talents

Does things his way

Involves group in decision making

A boss does his job mainly for the money. A leader is passionate about his job. He does the best he can for his family and his employees. His workers depend on him, and he depends on them.

Anyone can be a boss. However, it takes a very special person, male or female, to be a good leader. Unfortunately, some who have been given authority do not measure up to the satisfaction of those working under him. Then on the other hand, some go beyond the call of duty to do what's right for everyone.

Origin of National Boss's Day

Boss's Day originated in 1958 when Patricia Bays Haroski honored her father, who was her boss at State Farm Insurance. She appreciated the advice he gave her not only as a daughter but as an employee. Haroski chose October 16 as National Boss's Day because that was her father's birthday.

On National Boss's Day, it is good to examine the characteristics of a boss, especially when compared to the characteristics of a leader.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on October 18, 2018:

Salty Sam 54, I have had bosses, and I have had so-called leaders. Like you I prefer being self-employed

I like your comment about people following a leader into hell, whereas a manager brings hell to people. I had never heard it put that way before, but it sounds about right.

Salty Sam 54 on October 18, 2018:

Thanks Margaret.

I wonder if a better definition is a people will follow a leader into hell, whereas a manager brings hell to people..

Just like Russell I would prefer a leader. And as he has mentioned the difficulty in finding one then you will know why I am self employed.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on October 17, 2018:

Russell, I am in agreement with you about finding a good leader.

RussellFry on October 17, 2018:

Of course, I would rather work for a leader. Good luck finding many.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on October 16, 2018:

Salty Sam, thanks for reading my article about bosses and leaders on National Boss' Day here in America. You left some very interesting comments.

Salty Sam 54 on October 16, 2018:

Interesting thoughts Margaret. I did know about the differences between boss and leader, though for me it was manager rather then boss. I think the term boss is in more common use in America.

Leaders can manage whereas managers cannot lead. If you read wartime exploit you will read of men saying they would follow a leader into hell. Why, because they trust him to have their back.Equally they now a manager will stab them in the back.