It’s Easy to Be the Boss

It’s easy to talk like a boss and just as easy to be the boss. It’s also easy to talk about being a leader, but it’s often difficult to actually be a leader. Perhaps this is why we have plenty of bosses, but precious few leaders. However, differentiating leaders from bosses is both simple and easy, as I discovered in writing out this list of differences.



  • Drives employees
  • Depends on authority
  • Inspires fear
  • Says “I”
  • Blames for breakdowns
  • Knows how it’s done
  • Uses people
  • Takes credit
  • Tells
  • Says “Go”
  • Quick to tell you what you did wrong
  • Too busy to give feedback
  • Hero
  • Tells you the way
  • Catches you getting it wrong
  • Listens when there’s time
  • Knows what you do
  • Believes in himself / herself
  • Cares about objectives first
  • Covers his / her back
  • Coaches employees
  • Depends on earned trust
  • Inspires people
  • Says “We”
  • Owns breakdowns
  • Shows how it’s done
  • Develops & grows people
  • Gives credit
  • Asks questions
  • Says “Let’s go”
  • Quick to tell you what you did right
  • Makes time for feedback
  • Humble
  • Invites you to lead the way
  • Catches you getting it right
  • Makes time to listen
  • Knows who you are
  • Believes in you
  • Cares about people first
  • Has your back

I suspect that most of you won’t disagree too much with these lists and the way that I’ve sorted them between being a boss and being a leader. If you do challenge my lists and sorting, I wonder what your people would say about your choices.

If you mostly agree with my lists and sorting, then I wonder where you would score as a boss versus a leader. However, how you score yourself is irrelevant since the only score that matters is how your people score you. If you think your score matters most, it’s likely because “you’re the boss” and that’s part of the issue.

What I love about the above lists is that the distinctions are fairly clear and there’s not much allowance for you to hide or pretend about your leadership. Yes, perceptions are perceptions (and they are the reality for the perceiver), but the simplicity of the concepts laid out above offers the clarity that’s needed in assessing our leadership (and in determining your team members’ experience with you).

Leadership might be challenging, and being the boss is easy, but the differences between the two are simple. Which will you choose?

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