A boss expects, commands and demands. A leader inspires, teaches and motivates.
A boss explains a task until workers appear to understand. A leader explains tasks in ways that build passion and commitment, exhorting people to do their best.
A boss will solve problems when asked. A leader shows people how to find solutions for themselves.
A boss criticizes, and maybe even punishes, poor performance. A leader gets to know the strengths and weaknesses of employees, and then works with them over time to build up their strengths and patch up their weaknesses.
A boss is “always right.” A leader invites feedback, is willing to acknowledge mistakes and remains open to asking people what they need to do their best work. When things go wrong, a boss is quick to cast blame on others. A leader stands up, takes the responsibility and uses the mistake as a teaching tool.
A boss often micromanages, sometimes to the point of obsessing over the tiniest details. A leader empowers people, guiding them toward greater responsibilities and helping them become increasingly more autonomous and self-confident.
Finally, a boss focuses on “me.” A leader focuses on “we.” Leaders know that a win for one person is a win for all, and that collaboration is the single best way to get there. In general, bosses talk more than they listen, and leaders listen more than they talk.
Karen Burns’ words have inspired me for years to put my best professional foot forward. Burns is one of the first columnist I read when I get my daily paper.