What makes a great leader? About “leading” and “bossing”

How do you tackle the responsibility of being on top of a group of people? The idea of being “in charge” of people can be very charming at first – and also over a long period of time – if it is done right. But what is right in terms of leading?

If you ask this question to 10 people, you will get 10 different answers. I think there is no “golden rule of leading”. But there are principles, techniques and mind tools, that can surely contribute to leading success if used properly.

But before I am going to talk about these, there is a need for clarification of two terms – “leading” and “bossing“. While the first one actually has a positive meaning, the second term is quite negatively connoted. My definition of both is as follows:


Leading, above all, to me means achieving things together.

It is communicating what the group or team is striving for and of course why they are striving for it. A good leader creates a feeling of unity and integrity and sets the whole team up on a mission. Of course, leaders can not always take the time to hugely talk about the feelings of each involved individual but they can e.g. schedule short meetings to talk about pains and potential pain relievers for each team member. Not only does this create trust, which is the essential element of any form of collaboration, but it also strengthens the understanding and integrity between each other.


Bossing in fact is the exact opposite of leading and per definitionem: Mobbing. To me, bossing means creating an artificial and fake situation of respect and team work by fearing and ruthless behavior.

In terms of bossing, achieving the goal is still the number one objective but integrity and motivation are not present. The “leader” wants to achieve objectives – no matter what. Mobbing, fear and ultimate competitiveness are often seen in bossed teams. Results can be intrigues, loss of motivation and a desolate team performance, measurable in KPI’s.

The below image quite nicely illustrates the difference between a boss and a leader:


Naturally, every leader has to be a boss sometimes to e.g. get a decision through or just to refocus the team on track. He / She should ideally be capable of doing this, since he / she is in a leading position for a reason. But it is the level or ratio of leading to bossing that is decisive. To much “laissez faire” as well as to much “iron fist” can hinder team success.

What I really want to stress in this article is the, in my opinion, most important skill a leader has to incorporate, if he wants to succeed and experience success – and that is the ability to empower others. Actually, that must be the number one soft skill.

A leader can naturally do this by sharing his experience and personal views on a professional level with his coworkers.
He / She can either beware them of mistakes they don’t necessarily have to make and also help them to cope with mistakes and difficult tasks or situations using gained knowledge. Leaders are to create an individual “steplist” or similar for their protegĂ©es as well as awareness for the tools to reach the different steps.

As I wrote in my previous article, mistakes should not be judged and used for discrediting. A possible approach to mistakes can be: Identification, Learning, Avoiding.

A capable leader can deal with mistakes coworkers make like:

“Alright, that was not the right approach, but at least we now know how not to do it for future projects – that’s good!. Now, maybe we should try using (insert) and combine it with (insert) to achieve (insert).”

By not shaming someone for a mistake but dealing with it properly, the leader empowers employees and sets part of the basis for future success.

What do you think makes a successful leader?

Kind regards


Picture sources:

  1. https://www.google.de/search?q=Team&client=firefox-b&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiXwcGQ1-LTAhXFCCwKHcAvAI4Q_AUIBigB&biw=3440&bih=1235#imgrc=I_sBHSHRBj4ECM:
  2. https://www.google.de/search?q=boss+/+leader&client=firefox-b&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwib15T40-LTAhWHfiwKHbNIDCEQ_AUICigB&biw=3440&bih=1235#imgrc=WGlbytTrEcvHgM:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s