The difference between being a boss and a leader in retail

difference between boss and leader

The difference between being a boss and a leader is the action they take and the mindset they have. A typical boss tends to show poor leadership but essentially, a boss’s main focus is to manage their employees; while a leader motivates people. In retail, the boss supervises and directs their staff and manages the status quo, whereas a leader in the retail sector collaborates with staff and looks to continually improve processes. 

There is a place for a boss in situations where time is short and simple direction is needed, but a leader helps to foster a more efficient and creative work environment, which fosters an increase in productivity and superior results. 

Whether you are new to a position of influence or a seasoned boss, these leadership traits will help you get ahead so you can make a positive difference to your staff members and become a proficient leader. 

Tony Gregg, Chief Executive at Retail Executive Search firm, Anthony Gregg Partnership highlights the difference between both roles and how senior bosses can start to adopt a leadership mindset.

Inspiration versus commanding

Let’s start with inspiration, because it is the most important leadership trait. Bosses demand that their employees do better, while leaders inspire it.

This difference results in employees wanting to work to the best of their ability. Inspired employees are more productive, and in turn, they inspire their colleagues to aim for greater success.

Respect versus intimidation

The next big difference between a boss and a leader is how they treat their employees. Bosses can use their higher position within a company to intimidate staff, whereas leaders are inclusive. They treat their employees equally, whatever their position, treating everyone they work with the same respect. A good leader will make a point of engaging with others to listen to different perspectives and will welcome and adapt their new ideas for the success of the business, giving credit where it is due.

Discussion versus domination

Leaders involve themselves with every level of the business, listening to their employees and encouraging a culture of transparency and openness. Leaders are willing to compromise and change to improve and progress a business. In contrast, bosses will take a more passive role at the head of the table, receiving complaints through complicated protocol rather than face-to-face discussions.

Hands-on versus hands-off

When new equipment, methods and tasks enter the work environment, leaders will get hands-on, eager to learn and pass on new information to employees. Bosses will not get involved with anything new unless they have to. They let their employees engage without their input and with no desire to know anything about the business as a whole, outside their job description.

Communicates rather than criticises 

It is critical for leaders to be skilled communicators to enable them to achieve results through others. Rather than question and criticise an individual, they focus on the situation that needs to be improved. Employees will be demoralised if they think the criticism is personal, especially when all they need is teaching and guidance to get it right the next time. Also remember that positive feedback should be given alongside any negative feedback so that the person is more motivated to change.

Accountable versus unanswerable 

A leader shows accountability for their responsibilities and is answerable for their team’s mistakes, decisions and actions. If a boss is unanswerable, they are not facing up to their responsibilities. Accountability avoids wasting time on conflict, decisions are made more quickly, productivity is increased, customer service is improved, and, most importantly, your staff will trust you.

Transforming versus listening

A boss will listen to the concerns of their team, but a leader will listen and then encourage the team to come up with solutions. This empowers employees to have a sense of ownership and develops their confidence. It is also beneficial for employees to see you strive for change and act on their behalf when needed. This shows that you have their best interests at heart and that you care for their wellbeing. 

Connecting versus speaking

The most powerful way for leaders to make their staff feel valued is to connect with them by asking questions and actively listening. This directly encourages staff engagement and retainment and results in improved performance. Remember that modelling the emotions you want staff to emulate — even a simple smile — contributes to a happy culture. On the other hand, negative feelings also catch. For example, bosses who frequently express frustration will find that their team will become frustrated too.

Inspirational leadership is core to every successful business and this is where leaders excel and bosses fail. Without an inspired workforce, business goals will be seriously challenged, so understanding the difference between a boss and a leader and making relevant changes will set your business up to achieve greatness.