Are you a boss or a leader?

There are two kinds of managers in the world: bosses and leaders. Both can achieve results, but only one truly inspires people to greatness.

■  A boss drives employees, depends on authority, places blame, takes credit and says, “go.”
■  A leader coaches employees, generates enthusiasm, develops people, gives credit and says, “let’s go.”

Many leaders, myself included, sometimes struggle with the pressure to get things done. It can drive us away from being the leader we want to be and push us to become the boss that we feel like we need to be in order to stay on course.

When people work for a boss, they tend to feel like parts of a machine that can easily be swapped out. They don’t feel their opinions are valued, and as a result, put in minimal effort, limiting the potential of the organization.

Leadership is a privilege, not an entitlement, and each of us should strive to be leaders, not bosses. Only by being leaders can we feel true fulfillment as we help inspire those around us. While being an old-school boss can yield results, it isn’t the most satisfying position to hold.

Do you want people who are motivated and want to take initiative, or do you want to have to monitor them to make sure the job gets done? Trying to prod people into doing what you want can quickly become a tiresome chore for a boss, so why not become a leader?

Employees should feel like part of a larger family, where the leader gives direction and encouragement and doesn’t punish mistakes, but instead uses them as a teaching tool. If people fear punishment, they will always play it safe and never take risks.

As CEOs, we know that taking risks is part of the journey to finding success. If no one is willing to take risks but you, progress toward your goals will be painfully slow and the big breakthrough you are hoping for may never happen.

Managing people is a process, not an event. Coaching should be going on all the time, and employees should not be afraid to tell you when you’re wrong. If the only time you are talking to employees is to tell them they did something wrong, then you are being a boss and not a leader.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of, focuses on being a leader and creating a culture that encourages others to do the same at his organization. His belief is that what goes around the office comes around to the customer. In Zappos’ case, happy employees led by leaders, instead of bosses, has resulted in billions of online sales and many happy customers.

A boss might be able to achieve the same thing, but a leader will increase the odds of success and have a lot more fun along the way.

Fred Koury is president and CEO at Smart Business Network