Lead, Don’t Boss People Around: 7 Secrets to Become a Great Business Leader

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As an entrepreneur, you will be expected to wear many hats. You’ll be accountable for many things, from your business operations to your employees’ welfare.

As your business grows through the years, you’ll eventually need more help. And this means needing to build a bigger team.

This is the point when you need to choose between acting like a boss or serving as a leader. To help you out, this article discusses the key differences between the two terms. It will also provide you with helpful advice on how to lead your business to success, from the best way of interacting with your subordinates to partaking in leadership development programs.

Boss vs. Leader — Key Differences

When vying for a better spot in a competitive market, your company will have a better chance if you choose to become a leader instead of a boss. It can boost your team’s productivity and overall performance, thereby significantly increasing the chances of business success.

Unfortunately, many people mix up these terms and use one when they mean the other, and vice versa. As an entrepreneur, you have to make sure you understand what it means to be a leader and how different it can be from acting like a boss.

You see, the term “boss” evokes a negative response from people. After all, this is the root word for the adjective “bossy,” which has an unpleasant connotation.

The boss status of a person means that they are the one in charge and need to be obeyed, like it or not. It also connotes that being a boss means having power over your subordinates because of your title.

On the other hand, the word “leader” incites a more positive response from people. Some tend to say, “he is a natural leader” or “he is a great and accomplished leader.” By association, the term “leader” gets more pleasant reactions as it is used to describe a person whom people look up to.

7 Tips for Great Leaders

Leading the right way has plenty of benefits. Yes, it can definitely help you achieve your long-term goals. But there’s more.

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When you start hiring people – whether employees, contractors or freelancers – you will see the importance of leading properly. Once you have that down pat, you will not only save time and money in recruitment and training but also establish a company culture where people will want to do their best.

So, without further ado, here are seven tips that will help you become a great leader:

1.     Work with your team

One thing that separates great leaders from the rest is that they work with their team, not lord things over them. The best leaders are not afraid to get their hands dirty – in an entrepreneurial context – and are willing to take over various tasks every now and then.

Depending on the type of company you’re running, you can take charge of one or more of the following tasks:

  • Social media management
  • Content production for your company’s blog
  • Customer service request responses
  • Customer satisfaction surveys

Remember that, to understand the people you lead comprehensively, you must know how they do their tasks. Put yourself in their shoes, and you will know how to effectively lead them toward productivity.

2.     Understand limitations

As an effective leader, you must push your team to be the best they can be. However, this doesn’t mean you must always seek perfection, or berate people if they cannot achieve the “best” immediately.

Instead, you must show that you understand that people have limitations. Rather than judging too quickly, build up your team based on their existing skills, and gradually bolster their capabilities with training and coaching.

Keep in mind that mistakes are part of the process of learning. Don’t scold people for messing up or making mistakes, as progress takes time and patience. A good leader understands this and helps people learn from their mistakes.

3.     Inspire creativity

As a leader, it is your job to inspire creativity in your people. Intellectual stimulation follows if leaders encourage members of the team to expand their knowledge and allow free expression within the organization.

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Moreover, an effective leader should offer new challenges with enough support to ensure the achievement of such goals. To do this, you can provide challenges to group members that are realistic and achievable. This type of exercise can help people stretch their limits without feeling discouraged by any barriers to their success.

4.     Lead by example

Leading by example is an important component of effective leadership. Also called “idealized influence,” a leader must become a role model by exemplifying characteristics and behaviors that encourage their team members to do the same.

With this, leaders are admired by the team they are leading. In turn, the members will strive to emulate their leaders, fostering optimism, and high standards of performance.

5.     Listen

Good communication skills are crucial for you to become an effective leader. And communication is a two-way street. This means that you should listen as well as you speak.

It is also important for leaders to express their care and concern sincerely, whether verbally or non verbally. You must keep communication lines open to assure your people that they can offer contributions, speak their minds, and receive recognition for their hard work.

6.     Figure out your unique leadership style

Leadership comes in many forms. You can be friendly and open like a best friend, or you might be stern and authoritative the way a parent is when raising children.

To be effective in leadership, you must understand your leadership style. Determine where your strengths lie and what improvements can be made. Assess your skills and take a test to get a general idea of how you can lead effectively.

7.     Continue learning

Being a leader doesn’t mean you already know everything. In fact, it is part of your responsibility to your team and the entire organization to update your knowledge periodically.

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To avoid becoming an outdated leader whose ideas no longer have any practical value, strive to learn more about the industry and the world. Seek coaching from ICF-accredited providers, engage in industry-focused conferences, or get a relevant master’s or doctorate degree. Consider the expansion of your knowledge as an investment in yourself and your company.

Leaders Are Made, Not Born

The argument that leaders are born, not made, offers a sound ideology in terms of leadership. After all, people can become great leaders, not just because they are who they are but also because they continuously learn and observe.


Leila Rezaiguia is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Kompass Consultancy, an innovative global talent management consultancy headquartered in Dubai and with offices in Abu Dhabi and Sydney, that specialises in enabling individuals, organisations and educational institutions to achieve performance excellence and career success. Leila is a multi-lingual (English, Arabic and French) PCC Coach, Mentor Coach, Trainer, Facilitator and Business Mentor who is passionate about coaching, women in leadership, talent management and organisational development.

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