You might have read that title and be thinking ‘but they’re the same, aren’t they?’. As an HR organization connecting candidates with employers in China, we’ve found out that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are 25 major difference between a boss and a leader.

Focus on Vision

Leaders focus on a future vision for the company. Bosses focus on Structure. Leaders see the structure as being malleable depending on how best that structure can fit the future goals of a business.

Respect is Earned

Leaders earn respect from their employees by doing good work and making sure that everyone benefits. Bosses, on the other hand, tend to demand respect without having really done anything to deserve it.

Mentor Not Push

Bosses will push their employees forward, forcing them to work harder even if they don’t understand something. Leaders will try to teach employees how to do something more effectively, thereby benefitting everyone in the long run.

Fear Vs. Passion

Leaders inspire employees by filling them with a sense of passion for the project, thereby encouraging them to work longer hours and put in more effort. Bosses do the same, but by threatening pay cuts, or the removal of benefits.

Learning Goes Both Ways

Learning is a two-way system, leaders understand that. They accept advice and ideas from their employees, bosses tend not to.

Me Vs. Us

The goal of a boss tends to be their own reward and security. Employees are more of a means to an end. For leaders, employees are the oil which makes an engine run. Leaders try to make sure that employees remain happy because happy employees mean a better work force and higher productivity.

Distant Vs. Personable

Bosses tend to maintain a certain level of distance from their employees, trying to keep themselves apart from those that they work with. Leaders, on the other hand, will try to mingle with them, understanding that it’s important to be a part of the team to work effectively. No matter what you position.

Moving Forward Vs. Staying Still

Leaders want to constantly move forward, finding new things to invigorate and improve their business. Bosses prefer to get to a point where they are comfortable, and then stay there.

Risk Is (Not) Needed

For bosses, the risk is not a good thing. It means that their hard-earned security can be swiped away from them. Leaders, however, believe that a certain amount of risk is good. They think that without risk, there is no possibility for improvement.

Win No Matter What

That being said though, a boss does think of their employees as dispensable. Leaders think that they are needed.

Needed Vs. Dispensable

Bosses themselves are usually looked upon as being dispensable by the higher ups in the company. Leaders, though, are one in a million.

The Way They Speak

LaowaiCareer is always able to notice a needed leader by the way they speak. Leaders talk about how their team is doing, bosses talk only about the company.

Everywhere or Nowhere

A boss tries to include themselves in every part of the process. They want to know everything, even if it’s not their expertise. A leader will only try to involve themselves when it’s either needed or beneficial.

A (Not-so) Busy Office

In a boss’s office environment, employees are much quieter and less interactive. In a leader’s office environment, interaction is praised and sought after.

It Was All Me

A boss will believe that the successes of this department or company are all down to him, a leader will share that credit.

Equality Vs. Competition

However, when it comes to motivating employees, a boss will try to pit each against one another. For instance, by saying that one employee is better than another. A leader will, instead, try to encourage friendship and equality.

Where are we going

A boss doesn’t really know where he should be pointing his energy. A leader will follow his vision for the future, bringing his employees with him, but listening to their directions as well.

What Are You Doing Back There?

A boss will stand in the foreground, paranoid about what his employees are doing behind his back. A Leader will watch them from the background, and sometimes join in.

Delegate, Delegate

A boss will delegate tasks to his employees, telling them what to do and how to do it. A leader will delegate responsibility and leadership, letting them take the reins.

Whose Fault Was It?

When there is a problem, a boss will immediately blame someone else for the mistakes. A leader, on the other hand, will see it as something to learn from, and shoulder the responsibility themselves.

We, Uh, Have, Uh, A, Uh, Problem

Yet when it comes to telling everyone that there is a problem, a boss will struggle to find the right words. A leader will communicate the issue with confidence and begin by suggesting a possible way to fix it.

Politics Vs. Friendships

Despite all of this, sometimes a leader has to crack down. A leader knows when it’s the right time to tell employees what to do straight. A boss usually doesn’t.

Offering Advice

When leaders tell employees they have done something wrong, they offer it in the form of constructive criticism, trying to help employees improve for the future. Bosses just tell them off.

Your Future

Finally, a leader cares about your future as much as their own. They understand that you need help getting there, and they are there to help to achieve your own goals, as well as theirs. For a boss, this doesn’t even enter their mind.

Finally: A Leader Leads, A Boss Manages

Probably the biggest difference and the one which most of those above come from is this: a leader leads and a boss manages. That means that a leader will lead their employees towards the desired goal, whilst a boss will tell them how to walk, what to carry, and when to rest.
Here at LaowaiCareer, we understand the difference between a good leader and a bad boss. We always try to connect our candidates with good leaders to help set them on the right path to working in China. With the right leader, anyone can flourish.