is your manager a boss or a leader?

Management and ‘leadership’ continues to be a hot topic among businesses who are inspired to motivate their employees whilst moving forward into the modern era of people management. But what does it take to be a leader? Is your manager a boss or a leader? More importantly, which are you? There’s a difference, and sometimes what appears like ‘the norm’, is in fact, rather a boss than a leader.  Bosses push, leaders motivate and it’s important to understand which one you report to, or which one you are. Here are some of the many ways you can identify whether your manager is a boss or a leader!

bosses micro-manage, leaders provide autonomy

One of the easiest ways to determine whether you’re being bossed around or led is by understanding how much autonomy you have over tasks, projects and decisions. If you’re being told what to do, not being given the freedom of expression, then you’re dealing with a boss. If you’re being told to manage your work, make your own decisions and report on the details that matter, you’re being led, and being led is what we want!

Bosses often micro-manage. They can’t necessarily help it, but they feel as though they ultimately make the final decision and can go on power trips. These micro-managing situations do have their extremes. We’ve heard instances where bosses have dictated employees to the point of telling them how to tuck their chair in when leaving their desk. These instances can really demotivate employees and cause work-related stress. This is counter-productive and will ultimately result in poor performance, a really negative working environment and a high staff turnover rate – no-one wants to feel depressed at work!

Leaders, however, naturally collaborate, looking to draw inspiration and ideas from their employees. They take the time to encourage expression and creativity and tend to focus on the bigger dream, rather than how you fold in a chair. These are the types of people who inspire a workplace, and gel employees and teams together. Everyone wants to work for a leader!

bosses create blame cultures, leaders look after their people

When determining whether your manager is a boss or a leader, something to look out for is the culture within the office. Do people play the blame game, or do people admit making an error and productively work towards a solution? If the answer is the former, you’ve got yourself a boss.

Often, the blame culture starts from the top and cascades down. Examples to look out for might be:

“Because of the overspend made by Mark, we’re going to have to take some budget from elsewhere to cover this error.”


“Sarah didn’t meet the deadline, so we’ve had to inform the client that we’ll be slightly late on the deliverable.”

This moves the blame away from the manager. But what they might be blissfully unaware of is that their line managers may see inefficiencies in their ability to manage the team. Perhaps that’s why they blamed some else? They were afraid of what it might look like to their seniors and so decided highlight why the issue/mistake than providing guidance and support. Ultimately, by handling the situation in this way, they’re not protecting you and helping you through your mistake. They’re hanging you out to dry!

Leaders, on the other hand, encourage mistakes (within reason of course). It’s important that we make mistakes and learn from them, and leaders know this. Leaders understand that there is a high percentage chance that you wish to grow a career that supersedes their management one day, and so they do everything they can to help you grow, whilst also helping you make mistakes early on, so that you can evolve and gain the experience you need to become the best version of you possible.

 teams siloed under bosses, whereas leaders join forces

In order to maintain an easy to manage team, ensuring full control and power, bosses often work with teams in silo. This helps them micro-manage employees, decrease the sharing of ideas and ensures that everyone reports only to them. When you ask yourself the question –“ is my manager a boss or a leader?” you have to determine if you’re working alone or with others from different arms of the business – are you being restricted from doing so? Do you have to go through your line-manager first? These are all signs that say to you ‘I can’t expose myself to new ideas, new ways of thinking or ways to solve the problem’.

Conversely, leaders love ideas, they love sharing and they definitely love utilising people’s talents. The greater goal and vision are much more important to them than control and demanding respect. The best leaders know who to match when building teams for projects/tasks and look to help establish working relationships in order to grow teams and employees.

bosses take credit, leaders give credit

Ever worked really hard on a piece of work that you’re so proud of, only to watch someone else take credit for it? Yep, you’ve got yourself a boss, not a leader! Bosses look to gain credit from others, only have self-interests and again look to progress themselves, rather than their teams.

On the other hand, leaders give credit. Look out for “I couldn’t have done this without…” or “this is great work, thank you for your efforts” as these motivate those around us.

The difference between a player and a team-player is tremendous, especially within a workplace. Be sure to surround yourself with empathetic and mindful leaders, who know how to give credit where credit is due.

negativity vs positivity

Leaders really do exude a wonderfully positive and optimistic outlook on everything and it’s contagious. As a result, you’ll find teams really going above and beyond with the belief that they can achieve what’s necessary and more. These are the types of people we want within our teams and environments.

Bosses can sometimes be negative, especially when critiquing others. It’s a defence mechanism – bosses can feel threatened by their peers, and so to keep them at arm’s length, you’ll find bosses actively criticising employees, work and topics related to others. Furthermore, you’ll find bosses never seem to be happy – nothing’s good enough. Don’t let that hurt you – if you use this to fuel you, you might never achieve acclaim from your boss, but you know that you’re refining your talents and growing as a result – a positive outlook on a negative thing!

Surround yourself with the positive people in the office – they say that we’re usually the average of the group we mix with, so if that’s extremely positive, we’re going to naturally be more positive and inspiring leaders ourselves.

so… is your manager a boss or a leader?

Can you determine which type of manager you have? Are there other traits that you’ve discovered that helped you to determine whether your manager was a boss or a leader? Do feel free to contact us to let us know, or leave a comment below.


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