Is There A Difference Between A Boss and A Leader?

June 06, 2017

Is There A Difference Between A Boss and A Leader?

by Ian D Scofield

Some people use the terms boss and leader interchangeably but do the two actually mean the same thing?  No.  The two words have different meanings.  We are going to discuss those and help you to understand the difference.  In the end, hopefully you will see why you want to be a true leader and not a boss.


To start off we should take a look at the definition of boss and leader.  This is where you will start to notice the difference.

Definition of Boss

Meriam Webster (Noun) - the person at a job who tells workers what to do

Definition of Leader

Meriam Webster (Noun) - someone or something that leads or is able to lead

The Start of A Difference

Did you notice the difference in the definitions?  A boss is someone who tells people what to do while a leader is someone who is able to lead or that leads.  That is a substantial difference.

While a leader might tell someone what to do, the person doesn’t carry that task out because they were told to do it.  They do it because they were asked to do it by someone who has influence and respect.

How Does One Become A Leader?

A leader is often someone who has a natural ability to work with people and to inspire others.  They use that ability to get to know those under them and foster a sense of caring among their team.  Don’t worry if you don’t have a natural ability to work with people or to inspire.

You don’t have to be born a leader though.  Learning to become a leader takes a lot of practice and is best done with a mentor.  Someone to help guide you down the right path. 

Important Traits In A True Leader

Here are some of the important traits in a leader, ones that you should try to develop if you want to succeed in life and help others.

Leaders Invest In Others and Their Agency

A true leader takes the time to invest into others.  They train a replacement, help others succeed, and acknowledge that people are more than just robots.  At the same time they also give to their agency.  Leaders will help to promote the company from both within and outside.

Uses The Word We

A boss says I because they are constantly asking for people to do stuff for them.  As a leader, you should use the word we because you work as a team.  What people do is for everyone.

Gives Credit And Accepts Blame

There is a natural instinct in many people to take credit for the positive things that happen but a leader gives credit to those who deserve it.  If they are praised, it is because of the whole team that they succeeded.

At the same time a leader is willing to accept blame when it is needed.  They will never push it off onto someone else.  A leader will sometimes need to use corrective action but only after they have tried other methods.


Bosses are usually the people that keep away from others, no one knows too much about them.  You don’t have to be friends with everyone below you but being a leader means that you are viewed as a person by those you work with.  You want people to be able to relate to you.  It is hard to inspire people if you seem like a rock in the ocean.

Focuses On The People

In big corporate infrastructures, there are individuals who focus on how things need to happen and don’t look at how they are happening.  To shorten that, they focus on the process.  True leaders will focus on the people who make the process happen. 

That means they will make sure people are getting breaks, sleeping when needed, and have someone to talk to.  They don’t do this simply for productivity either.  They do it for the people behind them.

Which Is Better?

If it isn’t obvious yet, a leader is the better option of the two.  It is a title that will stick with you for your life as long as you treat it well and nurture a sense of leadership in those under you.  Becoming a leader takes a lot of time and work but it is something that pays off.

Those who are bosses are typically someone who doesn’t care about their job and/or doesn’t care about those under them.  Caring for both is essential in someone who expects to move forward with ease.

A Non-Official Definition Of Both

Before we end the article, I wanted to leave you with a definition of both words that I would use.  These definitions are something that might be easier for you to notice the difference.


A leader is someone who motivates a team or unit to carry out their duties and tasks.


A boss is someone who has to rely on their authority given to them by an institution to order someone what to do.

With all of this in mind, your goal should be to become a leader.  You should be able to inspire those under you rather than constantly relying on your position.  Just make sure that you are able to give orders when they are needed.

About the author:

Ian graduated Seattle University with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held positions as an Auxiliary Public Safety Officer, a Security Patrol Supervisor, and as an in-house security officer for a major medical center. Through all of this he has picked up a wealth of experience, training, and education that he is happy to pass on to others. Ian can be reached at

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