Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

9 Differences Between a Boss and a Leader

boss versus leaderJust because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you’re a leader.

The two roles have different characteristics. But if you try your best to be the latter, you will most likely succeed as the former.

That’s the premise of this article from Oleg Vishnepolsky, a writer and global officer at Daily Mail UK. Vishnepolsky contrasts nine qualities of a boss versus a leader:


  1. Demands
  2. Relies on authority
  3. Issues ultimatums
  4. Says “I”
  5. Uses people
  6. Takes credit
  7. Places blame
  8. Says “Go”
  9. My way is the only way


  1. Coaches
  2. Relies on goodwill
  3. Generates enthusiasm
  4. Says “We”
  5. Develops people
  6. Gives credit
  7. Accepts blame
  8. Says “Let go”
  9. Strength in unity

My Fault, Not Yours

The best part of the piece is a story Vishnepolsky uses to illustrate his point. Years ago, he writes, his company got a new boss. From the day of arrival, things were different.

“He did not speak at all-hands, did not send flowery emails to his staff like his predecessors did, and did not produce a new mission statement, like every boss did before him. We were very surprised.”

And then a crisis occurred. A system administrator made a mistake and unplugged the wrong cable, disabling a critical server and causing a major network outage. When called before the new boss, the administrator, expecting the worst, began to apologize.

“But the boss interrupted him, and said the fault was his. ‘As your manager, I should have made sure that cables were clearly labeled so such a mistake would be difficult to make.’ Together the two of them labeled every cable and server in the data centre.”

Soon afterward, the boss noticed his tech support team was doing a poor job of processing service tickets. Instead of reprimanding them, he found money in the budget to send them to training.

As time went on, the boss did other things to create unity and enthusiasm. He allowed flex time for working mothers, took his staff to ballgames and encouraged new projects.

“He was fiercely loyal to his employees, often putting his own neck on the line. When he finally spoke at all-hands, he never mentioned any of what he did, he only spoke of successes of his employees, calling them out by names. He made each one of us feel very special.”

In return, the boss got a dedicated, motivated workforce. Most of those who left the company went on to successful careers elsewhere.

Reader Feedback

The article struck a nerve when it first appeared on LinkedIn. More than 1,000 readers commented. Here is a sample:

  • Culture separates the great from the average.
  • How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.
  • Good leadership breeds a good work force. Which in turn increases productivity.
  • You will work over time and weekends when you feel appreciated and supported. I also think actually working alongside your staff shows your commitment to the work/project. You earn respect that way.
  • “Call me if you need help with that.” Team building is a passion and gift!
  • I’m a firm believer in IRA: Integrity, Reliability and Accountability as the core values for myself and team.
  • Leadership is about helping the team and others be successful.
  • Suggested addition to the Boss/Leader graphic: Boss = Selfish, Leader = Selfless.
  • Relationships are always built on giving.
  • Key word “together.” Isn’t that what life is all about? Locking arms and unified in our efforts. We need less finger pointing and more humility.

What leadership qualities would you add to the list?

Source: LinkedIn

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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