As a business owner or professional, you wear many hats. One of these hats is the responsibility of being a team leader; whether your team is big or small, this is a pretty significant task. Your leadership ability directly influences the professional development of individual staff members, as well as a much bigger impact on the overall success of your company. 

If you read any leadership blog, you will uncover an overflow of information out there from a multitude of different people: entrepreneurs, CEOs, managers, etc. Each person shares a unique perspective on what it takes to be an effective and memorable boss. Yet, one topic that continuously circulates these articles is the difference between being a boss and being a leader. To many, this debate (if that is what you can call it) seems frivolous—after all, they are the same thing, right?

But I believe there is a major difference between the titles of ‘boss’ and ‘leader.’ Anyone can be a boss and handle the day-to-day tasks of running a company, but it takes a special type of boss to be a leader. In other words, every leader is a boss but not every boss is a leader. How you handle this position of authority says a great deal about your character.

The Difference Between a Boss and a Leader

When a boss delegates responsibilities to their employees throughout the day, they often use the infamous “I am the boss, so just do it” reasoning. While this type of “leadership” is allowed, it is not usually admired. It cultivates a divide between boss and employee, which not only hinders company culture, but draws out a lot of resentment in your staff.

A leader, instead, seeks to influence their team to achieve greatness and move the business toward their higher goals. They want to keep the conversations open to new ideas because they care about their team, and they understand that others have valuable insights. As a result, their employees are happier and more productive, and their culture is more collaborative and efficient.

There are times a leader needs to assume the role of the boss and make a decision for the team. However, more often than not, it is the boss who needs to step back and consider the advice of his team before making a decision.

How to Know If You Are a Boss or Leader

How can you tell whether your leadership style resembles that of a boss or an influential leader? Here are three ways to evaluate your leadership style.

1. Ask Your Team. Send out a survey to your employees and ask for feedback. This is oftentimes one of the best ways to gauge how your team is feeling and you will be surprised at all a survey can bring forth. Make sure the review is anonymous, however, so employees feel comfortable speaking freely.

2. Evaluate Your Actions. Think about your last business meeting. Were you doing all the talking, or were you open to ideas from your team members? Here are five attributes of a remarkable leader to help you evaluate further: 

  • Giving credit where credit is due
  • Having contagious positivity
  • Listening to all team members
  • Inspiring change in your employees
  • Effectively delegating responsibilities while focusing on the professional growth of your staff

3. Read Books. There are many leadership books available that can help you better understand your own approach while advising your own professional development. A helpful way to evaluate if you are a good leader is to learn more about what an effective leader looks like. Two books to try are “The Five Levels of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.

As you learn to lead your people and act as a guide rather than a ‘boss,’ you will notice a glaring difference in your employees and the success of your bottom line.