Are You A Boss or A Leader?

leaderLeadership Ahead

Kimberly N. Alleyne

I read a great article on qualities that great bosses share. The author listed eight qualities, all of which I co-sign; but I got to thinking that there are significant differences between an individual who is merely a boss or manager, and one who is a leader.

Here’s what I mean:

It’s easy for someone who is clever at directing processes, gifted at project management, and adept at organizing details. Sure. But can that same person rally a team to exceed goals? To glamorize the active pursuit of individual improvement for the betterment of the person, team and organization? Or to keep morale up when the organization faces financial crises? Or to inspire others to believe in themselves? No, not necessarily.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked for bosses, those whom were unremarkable (dreadful in some cases); and I’ve worked for leaders— those whom imprinted my life and made me professionally and personally richer. I’ve learned something from each of them, be it in the form of qualities I found admirable and incorporated in my own leadership style, or qualities that I knew I’d always strive to avoid.

As a result of my experiences I am fascinated with leadership approaches, especially as I navigate my own ride on the corporate elevator. As a leader, I consistently hunt ways to improve, particularly as it relates to leading people–that’s hugely important to me. The fact is not everyone is not gifted to lead people. Meeting team goals and organizational objectives are not open for compromise, of course. But when it comes to my team, how do I get it right? What works? How do I influence a team, its members individually and collectively, with lasting impact?

The leadership styles I have been exposed to have been are varied. And what I have noted is while there are many avenues to get to an end point, there are traits that separate bosses from leaders.

Boss versus leader
Olivier Carré-Delisle
  1. Leaders get in the game, they don’t sit on the sideline while their teams toil away. They push and pull with their teams.
  2. Leaders don’t hover or micromanage; they give others space to dream, create and execute. They give others freedoms to shine, to step up, or sometimes, to fall.
  3. Leaders inspire others to do what they think they cannot do.
  4. Leaders do not paint with a broad brush or only with one color. They lead others based on individual needs, strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Leaders groom their bench for growth. If a  leader is not preparing an individual/team for the next step up, she or he is doing them a disservice.
    Black Enterprise Favorited My Tweet
  6. Leaders understand that’s it not a solo show, it’s a team performance.
  7. Leaders give credit and celebrate others’ accomplishments.
  8. Leaders are honest, transparent and fair.
  9. Leaders understand that leadership is an eternal journey of learning, growing and adjusting.
  10. Leaders dream in color and dream big, but build in ample opportunity for course correction.
  11. Leaders are confident, but they know they’re not always right, and that they don’t always know the answer. They admit their mistakes—quickly.
  12. Leaders know that leadership is a gift, and they embrace it with respect, humility and honor.


Leaders inspire–and lead–movements.

In the vast universe of leadership, there are inevitable twists and turns, ups and downs. Each ebb and flow is a mere dot point, not the final destination. There is always space to be better. Always. And a title is not necessarily a mark of leadership—if no one is following, or wants to follow—then it’s not leadership…yeah, not so much.

Are you a boss or a leader?

Great PageTurners on Leadership:

  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John C. Maxwell
  • The Power of Positive Thinking (The Amazing Results of Positive Thinking), Norman Vincent Peale
  • Great on the Job (What to Say, How to Say It, The Secrets of Getting Ahead), Jodi Glickman
  • Bringing Out the Best in People (Aubrey C. Daniels)
  • Strengths Based Leadership (Tom Rath, Barry Conchie)



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