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Contrary to popular belief, the titles of leader, manager, and boss are not interchangeable. While it’s true that any of the above can hold a managerial position, the qualities that make someone a leader go above and beyond the skills that can be quantifiably measured. A true leader isn’t solely focused on profit margins and sales quarters, and they know that real success lies in the success of their team. They also possess a range of soft skills, emphasizing their employees’ worth, and how they treat their team. 

The top skills that distinguish a leader and a boss include listening, collaboration management, emotion management, and feedback. With feedback, this applies to both giving and receiving. A leader will embrace and encourage input from subordinates without feeding an ego or thinking of themselves. They understand that real success lies within a happy, well-functioning team.

Another distinction is that a boss will teach an employee how to quickly fix an issue without explaining the bigger picture of why it’s necessary to do so. Bosses differ from leaders by not embracing these teachable moments. Signs of poor leadership also include micromanaging, which is mutually exclusive to having a sustainable learning environment. Bosses who don’t encourage self-reliance because they want to retain control are only hurting themselves. Leaders inspire their team to grow and learn in the hopes that they will one day succeed beyond their current job, regardless of where that may be. Bosses are too short-sighted to see that an employee who grows and moves on to other adventures will be a networking resource in the world and a potential peer down the road. 

In a managerial position, there are many personalities and kinds of people to bring together. It takes a level of empathy and understanding to practice diplomacy in a gentle yet tough manner, but it also takes self-awareness. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a term that is being used a lot in recent years. It applies to one’s ability to know when to reign in or suppress emotions in conflict resolution while efficiently solving issues.  

Honesty and transparency are also the hallmarks of a great leader. Bosses who lack people skills might unknowingly invalidate employees by excluding them from relevant company news. Whether positive or negative, employees want to know they have value and want to be included in a company’s progress.