by Matt McKee

I don’t like the word boss. It has an implication of domination, superiority, and arrogance. Think of it in terms of the adjective “bossy” – controlling, arrogant, overbearing. If you have to say you’re the boss, then you have already lost. I prefer to think in terms of being a leader, not a boss. Leadership brings to mind guidance, direction, and inspiration. So if you are in any kind of position to manage or direct other people, I strongly encourage you to try to be a leader, and not a boss. I think there is a world of difference between the two approaches.

To help you decide whether or not you’re a leader or a boss and what the difference is, here are 5 signs that you’re a boss and not a leader:

1. Your communication only goes one way.

A boss speaks but never listens. A boss barks orders without leaving any room for discussion. A leader, however, listens more than he speaks and cares about what others have to say.

2. You rule by fear.

A boss wants people to be afraid of his power, his anger, his judgment. A leader would rather earn the respect of those he leads by proving himself to be of value.

3. You expect perfect obedience from those you manage.

A boss dictates what is to be done and how it is to be done, and responds with anger if his orders aren’t carried out perfectly. A leader gives inspiration and direction, and then trusts people to carry it out their own way.

4. You create a distinct hierarchy around you.

A boss treats those below him like inferiors and those above him like masters. A leader, however, sees all people as valuable regardless of their position, and he treats them with equal respect.

5. You position yourself only for your own benefit.

A boss sees people as stepping stones for him to use and walk on to reach his own goals. A leader sees a bigger picture beyond himself and is willing to sacrifice his own glory for the greater goal.

Okay, so some of these thoughts may be extreme, but I urge you to consider where you lie on the spectrum between boss and leader. Which one are you trying to be in your management of people? How can you change to be more of a leader and less of a boss?

Matt is the CEO of ROAR (, a mobile software company focused on providing solutions to churches and non-profits. He is also on staff with reThink, in social media, leadership, and marketing communications roles. More importantly, he is a husband of one and father of two.