Does Good Leadership Mean You Can’t Be a Boss?

good leadership

Even though boss has become a four-letter word, those who aspire to positions in higher management think in terms of being a boss, not a leader. Are these terms mutually exclusive or can you still be a boss while showing the characteristics of good leadership?

Boss Versus Leader – Good Leadership

A boss is a person who has a title, job description, and authority. A leader is a person who has certain characteristics even if they aren’t in a position of authority. A person can teach you how to be a boss, but this may not make you a leader. Moreover, you may be a leader but never be a boss.

Combining the Two

There are business gurus who will tell you that you should strive to be a leader and avoid being a boss. A boss is often described in negative terms. It is said that bosses give orders, use intimidation, and use negative reinforcement to motivate employees. Bosses don’t value their employees or opinions and only use workers to further their careers.

Leaders are described as people who not only respect their employees but also will put their needs above personal gain. Leaders encourage, mentor, and foster a positive work environment.

If you believe these definitions then no one should want to be a boss and those who aspire to management positions should only foster their leadership skills.

Fashionable Words

Just as certain clothes go in and out of style, different management styles will weave in and out of the spotlight. Fostering a kinder and gentler management style for those with authority is a recent business development, but there have always been famous leaders in the world. These people have been generals or government leaders who inspired people and made a difference.

A boss can exhibit these same characteristics. The title itself isn’t bad; it is the way people have behaved who have held the title that made being a boss seem ruthless. Just because the word boss has developed a negative connotation, it doesn’t mean that all bosses are bad people.

If you are in a management position it is up to you to decide what style you will foster in your position. If you want to adopt a servant-good leadership style and encourage employees to develop and improve work processes then you will be a good boss.

Action Steps For A Good Leadership:

How can you soften your management style and adopt the characteristics of good leadership? Here are some actions you can take today to make a difference:

  • Mentor employees and hire people who are smarter than you
  • Delegate responsibility and make decisions a group effort
  • Give credit for successes to the team
  • Use positive reinforcement to motivate those in your department
  • Value the opinions of those on your team and ask for their advice

Don’t Be A Soft Touch

There is a difference between being a leader and allowing your team free reign. You still have to make sure that your department meets business goals and completes projects. It is just that as a leader you don’t focus only on the results. Bosses often embrace the concept of the ends justifying the means. They don’t care how hard they push people as long as company goals are met. As a leader, you are more willing to work alongside your employees to get the job done instead of barking orders and then going out to play a round of golf.

A leader is also willing to try different approaches to a task in order to find the one that works best for his team. If employees don’t seem to react well to one approach or the team doesn’t meet goals consider trying something different. You may even want to discuss the issue with your people to see what they believe the problem is and how to fix it.

You are the one who makes the decision of what type of boss or leader you will be. Exhibit the positive aspects of both management styles and you will have a happy and productive team no matter if people think of you as a boss or a leader.


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