15 signs you’re really a leader, not just a boss

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Every leader might be a boss, but not every boss is necessarily a leader.

There are a unique and distinctive set of qualities that leaders possess that mere bosses simply don’t share.

And effective leaders regularly take personal stock to make sure they are indeed operating as a leader, and not merely as a boss.

What are the qualities that distinguish true leaders from mere bosses?

There are many distinguishing characteristics, but these are 15 of the most important signs you’re a leader, not just a boss.

  1. You care more about your people than you do your position
  2. You don’t just CAST the vision, you EMBODY the vision
  3. You don’t criticize, you coach
  4. You don’t bark orders, you inspire passion
  5. You listen more than you talk
  6. You’re more interested in sharing the credit than seeking the limelight
  7. You build teams, not just committees
  8. You’re driven to solve problems, not just assign blame
  9. You’re more interested in people’s gifts than their job description
  10. You don’t quit at 5:00 pm, but when the job is done
  11. You stand for what is right, not just what is expedient
  12. You speak the truth as a matter of principle,  not just policy
  13. You seek organizational success more than personal achievement
  14. You seek honest feedback, not empty compliments
  15. You celebrate your teammates’ success more than your own

Another important distinctive is that while being a boss is about self-preservation, being a leader is about self-assessment and growth.

So keep this list handy and take a personal leadership inventory on a regular basis.

Because while every leader might be a boss, not every boss is necessarily a leader.

What marks of leadership would you add to this list?




the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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