Leadership Basics: Boss vs. Leader


Have you ever had to be under someone’s leadership, but the way they led made you feel inadequate, like your input wasn’t valued?
Now think of a time you worked with someone who trusted your opinion and wanted to help you succeed. Did you feel more appreciated? Maybe a little more creative or inspired?
That, in a nutshell, is the difference between a boss and a leader.
It’s important to know the difference because it can have a big impact on a business. Adam Worner, director of Talent Acquisition for Quicken Loans, says, “A team leader will help grow your business, and your team members’ career and passion. A boss typically deteriorates those.”
There are a few key ways to spot the difference.
Characteristics of a Boss
A boss is someone focused on “me” instead of “we,” and because of that, they tend to have a difficult time when it comes to teaching and mentoring. KimArie Yowell, senior director of Talent Development at Quicken Loans, puts it this way: “A boss often manages. They work off of assumptions and demonstrate that their way is the only way to get a job done.”
Managing isn’t always a bad thing. There has to be a point person you can report to, but at the same time, thinking that their way is the only way isn’t productive.
The Harvard Business Review polled 195 business leaders around the globe, and six of the top 10 traits they wanted in a leader had to do with having an open mind and giving team members the chance to learn and grow. You can’t do that when you think it’s your way or the highway.
Another indicator of a boss is when they try to make themselves look better, rather than the team. “Bosses take the credit when things go well and place blame when they don’t,” says Yowell. It’s hard to work in an environment like that, because you’re always worried about messing up, which breeds a fear of trying new things.
Characteristics of a Leader
Leaders, on the other hand, are just the opposite. They’re focused on helping the team succeed, not making themselves look better.
“A leader is someone who gets in the trenches with their people. They take the time to work shoulder to shoulder, knee cap to knee cap with their folks. A leader sets direction through inspiration and empowerment. They’ll take the time to coach and develop their team members,” says Yowell.
Working alongside your team and investing in their growth and success inspires them. It creates a sense of security, too. Knowing that your leader has your back makes you feel more comfortable to try new things and come up with big, crazy ideas – the kind of ideas that can grow a company.
Another thing you’ll notice about leaders is that they take the old “there’s no ‘I’ in team” saying seriously. When there’s a success, they share it with their team. They even prop out team members who made an investment and really drove home that win. And when there are failures (because when you’re leading and trying new things, there’s bound to be a failure every once in a while), they don’t throw someone under the bus. They rally the team and use it as a learning opportunity.
At Quicken Loans, we believe that leaders create a workspace that fosters creativity, innovation and passion. They help team members find purpose in what they do. Our team members do more than just complete tasks. They help people achieve the dream of homeownership and take part in revitalizing American cities like Detroit and Cleveland. If you want to be part of a team that has your back, wants you to succeed and can help you unlock your potential, check out QLCareers.com to apply.
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