The Advancing Leadership Blog

Blazing a trail: Are you a boss or a leader?


By Catherine Osler, President of TEC Canada

Asking the question, “Are you a boss or a leader?” can have a profound impact on the direction of your company and the heights of success you can reach. Theodore Roosevelt said, “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” The separation lies in encouraging and motivating people to follow you versus pressuring people to act.

Egomaniacal or inspirational

We have all had or seen bosses that could be defined as vainglorious. Seldom would we describe ourselves as such!

CEOs, entrepreneurs and business leaders have earned their stripes because of their skill set and drive for success. Talented people, when it comes to managing, can still fall into the trap of being a “toxic boss”.

Do you inspire your staff or are they turned off by your leadership approach? Analyze your behaviour and determine how you can funnel your energy into being a positive leader. Ask yourself:

  • Am I listening to my employees, especially my trusted managers?
  • Am I focused on growing my business or am I micromanaging my employees?
  • Do I define my relationships with my employees as positive? How would they define their relationship with me?

The answers will give you a glimpse into your leadership style.



People have a tremendous capacity for growth and improvement. True leaders encourage people to expand their skill set and continue learning throughout their careers. Leaders themselves also show a propensity towards education and continued growth.

When our teams excel, so do our companies. If your company does not have any incentives for training and education, consider implementing such a program. Enact guidelines around completing certain courses. In order to protect your investment set the grades necessary to receive partial or full reimbursement.

If your organization already has a program to encourage training and education, it should be reviewed and evaluated to see if improvements can be made.

Consider what will encourage employees:

  • Is the program available to all employees?
  • Do you want to provide onsite training or partial to full reimbursement for academic studies related to the employee’s position?
  • What career path do you see for employees who excel and further their education?

Encouraging growth will increase job satisfaction and in turn increase employee retention.

The power of a team

How many extra hours, long nights and weekends did you put into growing your business? Your success is tied to your tremendous effort and passion for enterprise growth. Now, the continued success of your business relies on the motivation and involvement of your employees as well. How can you inspire them with enthusiasm rather than make them fearful? Committed and energized employees are a valuable asset.

Try the following steps to assess your current team and find out where you can make improvements to meet employee and business needs.

  • Make a list of your team members. If you were to rate each member, how could you coach them to become a 9 or a 10?
  • Do your team members feel challenged? If not, can you stretch their abilities to help them grow?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your team as a whole? How can you improve the team both long and short-term?

Empower people

Two integral traits of leaders who inspire people are:

  • Leaders stand for ideas and values that others respect.
  • Leaders define reality for people who work for them, including the who, what, when, where and the why.

Being a good leader is hard to fake. A strong, positive leader is genuinely excited about each employee’s potential for growth and development within their organization.

By analyzing your leadership style you will be able to get a clear picture of the relationship you have with your employees. Creating a strategic plan to encourage their development and learning is essential to keeping them satisfied as well as adding value to your business. Every team is different so it is important to assess their needs independently. Remember, your employees’ growth will be a major facilitator to the expansion and success of your company.

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