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How to stop bossing and start leading

You can hear it just by saying the words; ‘boss’ sounds stiff and hierarchical whereas ‘leader’ sounds inspiring and collaborative. Leaders don’t just command, they build their employees up, nurture their skills, and value their perspectives. 

Even if you only have 1 or 2 employees, it’s worth putting the effort into becoming the best leader you can. How can you be a leader at work and give your employees the care they deserve? 

Boss vs leader

Knowing the difference between boss vs leader is vital to your business. Poor upper management can be disastrous for employee happiness and productivity. One study even found that 49% of people surveyed quit their jobs due to a bad boss. 

Work and office culture as a whole is becoming less hierarchical and traditional, and employees have come to expect a different relationship with their superiors. There’s a shift towards ‘servant leadership’, which is a dynamic where a leader’s primary goal is to support their team and help employee development.

 Businesses are increasingly looking to acquire and develop leaders at every level of their organisations, with 86% rating leadership as ‘urgent’ or ‘important’

The word ‘boss’ brings to mind someone who needs their instructions followed to the letter and who wants their ideas to take centre stage. By contrast, leaders truly care about employee development. A leader will welcome and appreciate the input of their employees, because that input leads to stronger working relationships between team members. 

Whereas bosses instruct and expect to be followed, leaders make the people they work with understand why and how to complete the tasks they were assigned. Leaders are also much more open to new ideas and suggestions from employees than bosses are. 

A boss gets all their authority from being a higher-level employee than the people below them, whereas a leader’s authority comes from the respect and influence they command from their team members. Leaders get better results from their employees and for their business because of their genuine concern for employee development. 

Skills needed to be a leader

Now that you understand the ideology distinguishing boss vs leader, how can you turn yourself into a leader? There are a variety of soft skills you can practice towards that end. 

Listen more

One thing leaders do all the time is listen. Good listening means you aren’t thinking about your response while your employee is talking, and you’re open to hearing something that could challenge your own view. 

Employee feedback can be a valuable thing. In order to grow as a leader, you have to ask your team tough questions, like: 

  • How could I support you better?

  • What would you change if you could?

  • What are the best and worst things you’ve experienced here?

  • What do you look for in a leader?

Feedback applies to more than job satisfaction. Your employees deal with different aspects of the business than you do, which means they could have insights you don’t. Remember that a good leader accepts and welcomes information from any source. 

Be transparent

If you’re wondering how to develop leadership skills in employees, transparency is a big part of it. Be upfront and candid about where your business is going, what your employees’ place in the business is, and what the payoff of their actions will be. 

Transparency also means taking time to help employees see the bigger picture rather than assigning them a task with no context to it. Explain why you’re asking for this and the impact that their work will have. 

Sharing the ‘why’ behind decisions is a big piece of how to be a leader at work, and makes employees more likely to follow you because they believe in you

Mentor your employees

One key aspect of leadership is that leaders stick with their employees over the entirety of a given task. Wondering how to be seen as a leader at work? Support your employees by teaching them how to do what you’re asking and empowering them to act autonomously. 

Mentoring employees needs to be done on an individual basis. Assess each person’s strengths and weaknesses so you can tailor your guidance. That’s how to develop leadership skills in employees. Mentoring emphasises encouraging growth as opposed to discouraging poor behaviour. 

Another important rule of mentoring is to delegate authority rather than tasks. Bosses have specific objectives in mind and are strict about meeting those objectives, often micromanaging in the process. But one of the skills needed to be a leader is being comfortable trusting your employees, and getting them to a place where that trust is warranted. 

As a leader, your job is to train employees to understand what to do, not just how to do what you ask. That means transparency and moving away from the top-down mentality. It’s important to work alongside your employees, both so you can better understand what support they need and to show that their roles are as important as yours. 

Mastering these skills is a huge step in learning how to be a leader at work. They’ll be invaluable in your day to day responsibilities. A team leader’s responsibilities are: 

  • Making sure the team has everything they need to do their jobs. 

  • Providing challenging yet meaningful and manageable work. 

  • Being accessible and approachable so employees feel comfortable speaking freely to you. 

  • Holding regular one-on-one meetings with team members, focusing on employee development. 

  • Providing and incorporating regular feedback to help both you and your employees improve.

Wrap up

Now that you know the definition of boss vs leader and the skills leaders require, you can start changing the way you manage. Being an empathetic, supportive, and hands-on leader will improve workplace culture and, ultimately, make your business more successful. 

Want more tips on running your business? Then head over to the SumUp Business Guide. 

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Max Elias