Some people say that leaders are born and bosses are made; others say that leaders are chosen while bosses are dismissed as individuals who have a hard time following orders. Being a boss and being a leader are different concepts, but they are also interrelated enough for some people to play both roles.
Even though you may be able to play both business roles of boss and leader, deep inside you are only one of them. It so happens that most people would rather be leaders than bosses because leaders are expected to stand up to bosses. The truth of the matter is that the business world needs leaders and bosses in equal amounts. Members of corporate executive board are leaders who respond to one boss: the CEO. Popular supervisors are often the best leaders in the workplace, but they have to answer to managers playing the role of bosses.
To place all the aforesaid in a business perspective, here are some ways for you to tell whether you are a boss or a leader:
The Burden of Command
Place yourself in a military situation: Let’s say you are given a choice of being a infantry platoon sergeant or a squad leader. The mission of this unit is to take a dangerous objective, and the plan is to send one squad at a time. Would you prefer to be the squad leader who tries to keep soldiers out of danger? Would you prefer to be the platoon sergeant who will make every effort to ensure that the mission will be accomplished without any casualties? If your choice in this scenario is to be the platoon sergeant, you are a boss who does not mind shouldering the burden of command, something that few leaders are willing to do.
The Ability to Utilize Resources
Let’s say you are the owner of a small tech firm that develops custom solutions for the intelligence community. One day, you are approached by a government client who is willing to give you a contract worth millions, but you also realize that you may have to double your workforce as soon as possible. As a boss, you will likely tell your human resources manager that you have full confidence in her ability to handle the hiring of coders immediately; as a leader, you will sit down with your HR people and discuss whether using recruitment process outsourcing, more commonly known as RPO, to accomplish this goal. Bosses tend to be assertive and get things done through their authority while leaders tend to be resourceful; in this scenario, the outcomes will probably be very similar.
The Limits of Authority
As a boss, you may be faced with making difficult decisions related to balancing authority and operations. Let’s say you are a company director who has an empathetic and charismatic manager as a subordinate. You notice that your employees work very efficiently under this manager, who seems to be a natural born leader. Your employees take advantage of this balance of power to question your authority while seeking the protection of your star manager. Once this happens, you may have to consider terminating or reassigning the manager if you feel that your authority is in check; you will likely lose productivity and popularity, but your place in the company will be cemented.
The Choice is Yours
There are no rules in the business world that state you can either be a leader or a boss but not both. If you are a business owner who understands that qualities and advantages of being a leader, you can hire directors and managers who can be bosses. You can help your managers put together a strong team of workers who enjoy your vision of where the company should go during good times and where it should seek shelter during the bad times; in the end, that is the mark of a true leader.