What leadership traits differentiate a leader from a boss?

What leadership traits differentiate a leader from a boss?

A leader can be a boss, but not every boss is a leader.

The types of leadership traits define a manager's ability to guide others and describe how employees perceive them.

Employees generally want to follow someone who inspires them and who helps them reach their full potential and, while autocratic, top-down management can be effective in certain business situations, it’s not always the most stimulating for those looking for a leader.

1. Do you inspire?

One of the best leadership traits is quality communication with staff. Employees with a clear understanding of the company’s expectations and how to achieve them are generally better focused and more productive.

No-one wants to wander around aimlessly, from nine-to-five, unsure of how to proceed or succeed. A good leader shares the company’s vision for the future with employees and motivates them into making that vision a reality, using incentives and positive reinforcement.

A self-assured boss may set inflexible work deadlines and make unreasonable demands, while enforcing authority to put staff members under increased pressure to complete tasks. Employees may get work done in the ‘boss’ environment, but they are less likely to be engaged and therefore less likely to put maximum effort into their tasks.

2. Do you focus on processes or people?

By 2020, researchers expect robots to take 5.1 million jobs from human workers. While robots don’t need complex social relationships to be happy, a human does.

A directive, authoritative boss is someone who concerns themselves with how well their people are following processes and focuses on improving efficiencies to impress their higher-ups. Straying from process is likely to land you in hot water, and the boss won't often find time to socialise with you or your colleagues.

One of the most important leadership styles and traits involved with managing employees is the ability to listen. A leader will make time to sit down and encourage feedback from their employees, while taking onboard their thoughts and opinions.

Staff members are much more likely to go above and beyond for someone they like and respect compared to someone who is only in it for themselves and the actual business results. Quality leadership skills include taking a genuine interest in employees and making sure they feel comfortable throughout the working day.

3. Are you interested in your employee’s career development?

Many people want to know how to take the next step in their careers and this is where management culture is very important to those looking to progress.

Staff members want a leader who proactively helps them get to the next level and takes a long-term view of their career path, such as through providing staff training. A poorly performing boss doesn’t care about the employee's next step, only the next task and that work is submitted before a deadline.

Further, they micromanage everything their staff do, and don't afford them the freedom to innovate.

A boss may just be looking at ticking tasks off their ‘To do’ list, while a leader takes things one step further and looks at building quality relationships based upon trust, respect, cooperation, and teamwork. Leaders often look at achieving success by developing the people behind them.

Andrew Storrier is an experienced journalist who has specialised in the recruitment and HR industry.

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