After working with thousands of leaders, these are the 12 greatest delineating characteristics of a leader in the boss vs leader debate. This was much harder to limit to twelve than I thought it would be.
Let’s do this.
Boss vs Leader Overview
- 12. Sustainable Learning & Growth
- 11. High Emotional Quotient
- 10. Who Feels the Success – Boss vs Leader
- 9. Owning Accountability
- 8. The Measure of Success
- 7. Dependency on Authority
- 6. Focus
- 5. Decision and Operating Priorities
- 4. Motivations
- 3. Career Progression Goals
- 2. Pleasure Principles
- 1. Conditioning Your Communication
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12. Sustainable Learning & Growth
A boss will teach you what to do. A leader will show you how and why to do it.
A focus on the why is one of the critical characteristics of a leader – it makes learning sustainable and transferable to other situations.
11. High Emotional Quotient
A boss is a subject matter expert. A leader is an emotional and people expert. Great leaders are very sensitive, albeit not emotional.
There is a difference. Sensitive is how in tune you are with feelings. Emotional is your reaction to those feelings or a situation.
10. Who Feels the Success – Boss vs Leader
Bosses need you to perform well for their success. A leader wants you to feel successful even if you failed.
One of the incredible characteristics of a leader is linking individual success to the success of those they lead.
If those people do not succeed, the leaders have failed in both their minds – and hearts.
9. Owning Accountability
A boss holds you accountable. A leader grows the confidence and passion from within you to build self-accountability.
It is an incredible process to watch unfold and supports sustainable success all around.
8. The Measure of Success
Bosses determine their success by a title position or hierarchy in the business. A leader – especially a born leader – influences anywhere and everywhere.
Leaders define their success by the passion and impact of the people they influence.
One of the biggest delineators of the boss vs leader is authority dependency. A boss depends on positional power to have an impact. Leadership influence in not dependent on power or position.
Some of the most fantastic leaders I have encountered had no authority over the people they influenced.
A boss focuses on what is right now – putting out the daily fires. A leader stays focused on doing what is right.
Out of all the characteristics of a leader, the ability to force your decisions past the chaos at the moment is the difference between success and failure.
5. Decision and Operating Priorities
A boss focuses decisions on the competition. Leaders stay aware of their competition but operate with a legacy in mind. This also supports not making potentially bad decisions at the moment and focusing on the future.
Have you ever noticed an Olympian swimmer? The swimmer on either side is not their focus. Their focus stays on what they need to do to nail their legacy – winning the gold.
A boss is driven by fear and reaction. A leader stays driven by passion and purpose – even during the challenging times.
3. Career Progression Goals
This is a HUGE definer of a boss vs leader. A boss always wants to stay your boss. A leader – much like a parent – wants you to do better.
A leader would proudly build you to ‘the boss.’
2. Pleasure Principles
No – I am not talking about Janet Jackson. A boss gets pleasure from being recognized for doing a great job. Leaders get pleasure out of seeing others rewarded for the fantastic results of their passion.
Imagine living in a world where everyone had the same pleasure principle as a leader. Amazing.
1. Conditioning Your Communication
Bosses keep you wondering or in fear just enough so that you tell them what they want to hear. At the least, they condition you not to say what they do not want to hear.
It may not be fun, but getting the full picture – the good and the bad – and being objective about it is one of the characteristics of a leader that fosters continuous growth, happiness, and success.
Leader vs Boss: One of the top characteristics of a leader is to build your confidence – and success.