Too Many Bosses, Not Enough Leaders

one red king chess piece, several white pawn chess pieces

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You got the title, the business card, maybe even the corner office. Well done! You have all the trappings of a leader. Around the office, people listen to you, other people report to you, you have a “seat at the table,” as they say.

You’ve earned this, right? Yes, probably. But here’s the hard truth – your work is not done. This is no time to rest on laurels. The bottom line is that anyone can be a boss, but only a few are true leaders.

Boss vs. Leader

Bosses are very different than leaders. Bosses tend to have a style that is about command and control. They micromanage. They wordsmith. They do things just because ‘they can.’ They intimidate and they are usually focused on the wrong things. They tend to lead with fear rather than encouragement. They are, just like the word, ‘bossy.’

Bosses sometimes disguise themselves as leaders, but inevitably they are revealed as imposters when their egos take over and they choose their own self-interests to the detriment of their team or organization. It only takes the toxicity of one boss to negatively impact many. Bosses fundamentally believe that being in charge is the same as being a leader — but it’s not.

“Bosses shape how people spend their days and whether they experience joy or despair, perform well or badly, or are healthy or sick.” – Robert Sutton, Professor of Management science at the Stanford Engineering School.

Leaders have several key differences from bosses. They have a humanity and humility that everyone around them can relate to and be inspired by. Leaders have empathy for others because they understand their role is not to do everything themselves, but to inspire people to their greatest potential. Leaders know they are part of a team, where everyone can learn from each other. They cultivate personality traits of openness, trust, and integrity.

And perhaps the most important leadership trait – and the hardest to pinpoint – is that we know it when we see it. Whether it’s in the boardroom, politics, the military, the front of a classroom, or on the sidelines of a football field. They don’t need to have gone to Harvard Business School to understand that true leaders inspire others.

How to Become a True Leader?

Make a commitment to embody true leadership traits. Share the credit. Be empathetic. Talk less, listen more. Be generous with your time and feedback for your team members and keep open communication channels. Be a team player. Lead by example and hold yourself to the same standards as you do everyone else. Let your employees give you a performance review. Be curious; act like a student of your business or industry. Be courageous – ask ‘why?’ or ‘why not?’ more. Create a healthy work environment. And understand that no one, including yourself, has all the answers.

These leadership traits are often learned, not inherent. As we become more aware of the needs of employees to succeed, we can better train our leaders to rise to the task and learn skills such as emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and effective communication. The business world is ever-changing, and these leadership skills are what define success. Whether your organization functions under a matrix management model of multiple bosses, or you are a single line manager, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company with multiple managers underneath you, these skills are imperative to uplift the entire team.

Our programs are designed to create leaders, not bosses. Our award-winning program has worked with top companies around the globe to teach the modern leadership skills needed in our ever-changing professional landscape. Leaders today face more of what Harvard Business review calls “disruptive demand” where change is happening quicker than teams can keep up with. Navigating these complex situations can be achieved through trained skills. If you find you need a little more support in developing leaders in your organization, give us a call at



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