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What are you: A boss or leader?

No, they aren’t the same thing. Giving orders is one thing and leading is another. When it comes to giving orders, all you need is hierarchy, rank and a desire to achieve objectives. To lead, you need a whole lot more. 

The productivity, satisfaction and loyalty of teams are firmly linked to a manager’s ability to inspire, motivate and transmit passion to their employees. Ultimately, great bosses are great leaders. And you can become one. 

Leader vs. boss. 4 differences.

If you want your team to produce more, be happier, be more committed to the project and last longer in the company, you have to be more than just a boss. And the only way to achieve this is for you to learn to identify the four traits that distinguish giving orders from leading: 

To be a leader is to know how to communicate

Leading is in large part mobilizing, influencing and guiding other professionals towards continuous improvement and achieving ambitious goals. That’s why leaders are extraordinary communicators. And here we’re not just talking about giving impressive speeches at important events. We’re talking about humility, empathy and close, daily contact. 

Leadership is based on trust 

A boss who goes to every single meeting and who is involved in absolutely everything going on is not a good leader. And not just because they don’t know how to delegate. That, of course, creates inefficiencies and friction. But the bigger problem is that their subordinates don’t feel that they’re trusted. And when you think someone doesn’t trust you, you lose interest, motivation, and even start to doubt your own ability. 

A good leader empathizes 

A leader sees and treats their team members as individuals, including and beyond their working capacity. Hence the importance of emotional intelligence and understanding personal difficulties that may temporarily reduce team performance. The most talented professionals are fully committed to projects because they remember how their bosses engaged with them and with their peers. 

To lead is to be honest 

Honesty is a core value for any leader. The best leaders lead with straightforwardness, with a clear strategic vision, recognizing their employees’ merits. Leaders fulfill their promises when it is in their hands to do so, and when they can’t, they explain why it’s impossible. They aren’t afraid to admit that there are factors beyond their control. This is one of the great signs of their humility. 

Discover the Guide to the main types of leaders, which one are you?

The impact of good leadership 

There are countless stories that exemplify what it means to be a leader and what impact they can have on their teams. 

Raúl Bartolomé remembers how Jesús Luis Yu, his boss, urged him to attend an extremely important meeting on his own. Yu needed to get ahead on another project he was leading and he simply told Bartolomé: “You’re invaluable and you can manage on your own.” And he did. 

Carlos López explains how Javier Ventura-Traveset never misses the opportunity to acknowledge every good decision he makes. And this has led them to become close and sincere with one another. 

Ana Navas highlights the advice she receives from her boss, Ana López Ranz, to continue growing professionally every day. She knows what she expects of her and that she can count on her support, her understanding and her enthusiasm to achieve whatever needs to happen. And not just at work. 

Because nothing starts and ends simply in the office. Perhaps that’s why Javier Pérez Blanco was so impressed that his boss, Miguel Ángel Leal, asked him to prioritize taking care of his father, who was seriously ill, over his obligations at the company. 

Discover the 13 questions to find out if you are a good leader.


Miguel Ángel Leal, Ana López Ranz, Javier Ventura-Traveset, Jesús Luis Yu and many other professionals have trusted IESE to guide them in their growth as managers through the Programa de Alta Dirección de Empresas (PADE). The equivalent in English are the Advanced Management Program (AMP) and the Global CEO Program (GCP)In addition to these programs, IESE offers a wide range of executive programs for you to develop your full potential as a leader. 

Read the article Keys to Being a Good Leader. 

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