Never in human history has there been so much emphasis on business ethics, moral leadership and employee empowerment. Yet, there is no sign that bosses as a whole are getting smarter or more effective.
Maybe it’s because leadership is a complicated business, and bad bosses are able to hide their dysfunction by exercising their power, offering excuses, exploiting internal politics, or practicing the old magician’s trick of distraction. Plus, quite possibly, leveraging the fact that their own bosses aren’t much better attuned at what it takes to win in business today.
So let’s make things simpler. There are huge differences between the day-to-day behaviours of good leaders and mediocre ones. By specifically highlighting some of these differences, maybe we can help people more clearly tell bad bosses from good leaders – and make it easier for the underperformers to clean up their act.
Here, then, are 20 glaring differences between bosses and leaders. How many more can you think of?
Bosses explain. Leaders explore.
A boss tells everyone that he or she’s in charge. Leaders tell their people they’re in charge.
Bosses demand compliance. Leaders encourage questions, dissent and innovation.
Bosses tell their people what to do. Leaders ask their people how they can help.
Bosses monitor your work. Leaders monitor results.
Bosses point out mistakes. Leaders encourage them.
Bosses take credit. Leaders give credit.
Bosses say, “Do it my way.” Leaders say, “Tell me about your way.”
Bosses say, “The best way to do this is…” Leaders say, “What’s the best way you’ve found to do this?”
Bosses hoard praise as if it were a scarce resource. Leaders spread praise around as if it didn’t cost a thing.
Bosses like to surprise people with the occasional celebration. Leaders create a culture of celebration.
Bosses know their customers can buy more; leaders know why their customers buy more.
Bosses demand respect. Leaders give it.
Bosses uphold hierarchy. Leaders flatten it out.
Bosses remind you they know more than you do. Leaders remind you that you know more than they.
Bosses are quick to point out when your performance slips below par. Leaders ask if everything’s okay.
Bosses set limits. Leaders discourage them.
Bosses build a culture. Leaders exemplify it.
Bosses ask “Why?” Leaders ask, “What if?”
Bosses develop scenarios. Leaders develop people.