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Boss vs. Leader: What’s the Difference?

Boss vs. Leader: What’s the Difference?

At the beginning of 2021, experts forecasted a trend of turnover in the workplace referred to as a “Turnover Tsunami.” A new report from culture-building engagement organization Achievers found that half of all employees plan to leave their jobs this year.

With more emphasis on retention than ever before, the kind of managerial style an employer adopts can have a lasting impact on employee relations, engagement, and of course, retention. 

How do you distinguish between a boss and a leader, and why should employers know the difference?


Defined: Boss vs Leader

Most team members will agree that a leader is better to work for than a boss. Why?  According to Inc, leaders “are exceptional at inspiring people to work toward future goals and getting the team to understand why those goals matter to them personally.” Good leaders generally delegate responsibilities and help employees reach their full potential, whereas bosses tend to simply give orders.

Indeed distinguishes a leader from a boss by the following: ability to influence, inspire, and motivate their team, transparency, acceptance of responsibility for their team, and more.

Alternatively, a boss is regarded as someone who gives orders from the top down, without accepting feedback or collaboration. They don’t inspire or empower subordinates; rather, they tend to micromanage and place blame when goals aren’t reached.


4 Strategies for Being a Great Leader

There are a lot of positive qualities that make someone a great leader--sometimes people are born true leaders, other times they learn how to be one. Here are some actionable strategies to help managers grow from being just a boss to an influential leader:

1. Give Employees the Opportunity to Use Their Skills

The majority of U.S. employees report that it is “very important” to have a position that takes advantage of an individual's unique skills and talents. Employees want to feel like their abilities are utilized and valued by their employers. Supporting employees in their skills development journey is a hallmark of a leader.

Placing employees in talent-fulfilling positions benefits both the employee and the bottom line. Employees who feel valued at work achieve greater productivity than those who feel like their talent is being wasted. Furthermore, these happy employees become brand ambassadors for your company, promoting your product or service as well as your reputation as an employer.

2. Celebrate Your Employees

Simply put, employees want to feel valued for their hard work and contribution to the organization by their managers. Regular rewards and recognition and celebrating employee anniversaries play an instrumental role in keeping employees engaged and feeling appreciated.

A study found that in a work environment, efforts that demonstrate appreciation and affirmation can promote employee engagement and performance. Workers who are motivated are generally more productive in their jobs. Plus, turnover is costly—employers who embrace this leadership habit can save time, money, and stress by keeping high-performing employees on their team.

3. Promote Work-Life Balance

More and more, younger employees express concern for “flextime,” the ability to self-manage time rather than being required to operate within the constraints of standard business hours. 

Workers at large identify the opportunity to work remotely as a major component of flextime appeal. While bosses might be hesitant to give up the ability to micromanage, leaders focus on being prepared with the right tools and establishing a sense of trust with their employees to allow them more control over when and where their work gets done.

4. Prioritize Performance Management

Employee performance conversations have a huge impact on how satisfied, motivated, and productive their employees are. If avoided, you are risking the potential for decreased employee morale, the credibility of management, decreased retention, and your organization’s overall effectiveness. One way to manage performance is through weekly 1:1 meetings.

When conducted as part of a larger employee retention strategy, HR can improve the company culture and the day-to-day operations of an organization by employing ongoing 1:1 meetings instead of exit and stay interviews.

Teams that prioritize 1:1 meetings between managers and their employees establish a consistent and reliable channel for mission-critical information to get to the right places (both upward and downward on the organizational chart).

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