Contrary to popular belief, the words boss and leader are not completely interchangeable. While it is true they share certain job requirements, such as being in charge of a subordinate or an organization, as well as tasked with delivering commands, there are nevertheless different ideologies and priorities, as well as different soft skills that separate the two roles. 

In any industry, a person’s skills are grouped into two categories – hard and soft. Hard skills are ones that can be tested and scored. People require training and evaluations in order to claim a hard skill. Computer programming, project management, sales, and marketing are examples of hard skills that would appear on a resume. Soft skills, by contrast, are ways in which people interact with others, such as through active listening, proper communication, and showing empathy.

The primary goal of a leader, if done properly, is to not only show a consistent balance between these two types of skills but to also act as a mentor to both their subordinates and peers. An effective leader realizes that any person’s success within an organization is a universal success for the business as a whole. People also thrive on praise, so publicly recognizing employees for success increases morale and sets a standard that others want to follow. Conversely, if employees feel like they are not recognized for good work it can cripple office morale.

A boss’s primary job, in the traditional sense, is to manage employees. They are tasked with keeping the company machine moving. This includes keeping track of timesheets and prioritizing solutions to problems that are quick and cost-effective. Their focus is not employee-centric as much as it is bottom-line. Their job is to keep things running at maximum efficiency. This means there is not much room for the encouragement of creativity and free-thinking. Leaders try to draw the best qualities out of each of their employees. They are aware that everyone has strengths that can help a team function as a cohesive unit. 

Recognizing fallibility and having self-awareness is another way that leaders distinguish themselves from a typical old-school boss. The ability to set a good example by apologizing when mistakes are made is something that people respect. It generates an incentive to perform well.