Boss or Leader: What Is the Difference?

Updated on May 20, 2020
revmjm profile image

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

Definitions of Boss and Leader

According to the dictionary, a boss is in a person in charge of others in the workplace. He or she is 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.

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 getting projects completed than in keeping the morale up 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 make 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.

Which one do you work for?

See results

Which one are you?

See results

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.


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    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      22 months ago from Richmond, VA

      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.

    • profile image

      Salty Sam 54 

      22 months ago

      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.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      22 months ago from Richmond, VA

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

    • profile image


      22 months ago

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

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      22 months ago from Richmond, VA

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

    • profile image

      Salty Sam 54 

      22 months ago

      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.


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