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The Difference of a Boss, Supervisor, Foreman, Manager or Leader

Updated on November 14, 2015

Lets Describe What Is a Boss

Bosses are in charge of their unit or area.

A boss can be the owner, or directly over the workers. When conversations lag in social settings, an opening is sometimes used as in: “Tell me about your boss”, meaning tell me about who is in charge. In every day conversation the boss is the important person and can mean any number of different positions from ‘team leader, supervisor, foreman, assistant managers, administrative executive, manager or leader. The term is used very loosely and hard to pin down exactly ‘What Is a Boss”. It depends on a company’s internal language and can mean just about anyone, including the CEO or Director.

Some people are trying to make ‘boss’ a negative connotation and say it should not be used.

I disagree; the word ‘boss’ can be a term of respect and consideration and can mean a high regard for that person. The word has all kinds of meanings and connotations, and it usually boils down to whom you hang out with or what company you work for whether it means a good or a bad thing. I take most things as positive, when someone says ‘You’re a good boss’ or “Are you the boss” I take that as a compliment.

What is a Supervisor or Foreman?

Person who is in charge of a specific work force such as a project, department or area are the ones that make sure that the work is done in a timely manner, correctly done, passes inspections with a minimum of errors. They work under department heads, managers or leaders. This person has to have the knowledge of the area he is head of and usually knows how things get done, knows each job duty and can step in and do them. They are the ones that evaluate their personnel on a yearly basis. This person doesn’t have to be charming or have charisma, but they have to be able to explain, teach or show how the work is done and then sees that it is completed. Some do this well with leadership qualities and others do it as manager qualities or a combination of the two.

Managers vs. Leaders

Both of these are high levels of management but act in a completely different way. A good way to explain them; “Managers are managers and Leaders lead”. This sounds simple, but they have different meanings and are not simple.

Each company decides what kind of traits their top management will have as their CEO or Director and hire what fits their specific needs and goals.

The major difference in the makeup of the manager or leader.

Leaders have charisma, persuasive qualities, integrity and honesty and managers are straightforward, practical, execute a vision and direct daily work. There isn’t a completely right or wrong way.

Managers do not like to delegate. Leaders are good at delegating and there are a lot more managers than leaders.

Most people will have a combination of manager and leader abilities, but one trait will be stronger than the other.

Companies and board of directors do not always understand the difference between a manager and a leader.

Managers like to have hands on where leaders do more PR and inspire, they guide them and empower them to do more.

Managers know what the company’s goals are and adheres to these and focuses on daily goals.

Leaders look toward the future for long-range goals and personnel implements that goal.

If companies and board of directors do not understand these basic differences, and hire a leader when they wanted a manager there could be problems. They will not understand the long-range perhaps risk-seeking goals he/she is striving for.

On the other hand if the company wanted a leader and hired a manager, they won’t understand why he isn’t putting their desires of long-range plans in place. They won’t understand why he isn’t looking toward the future.

When companies and board of directors make this kind of mistake it could result in micro-managing, undermining and undercutting from the board of directors and owners, which can cause an interruption of services, products and supplies; disgruntled employees resulting in losing employees and unhappy stock holders.

Before a company or board of directors hire there CEO or Director they need to put what they want down in the job description and make sure they all agree on what type of person they want – a manager or a leader.

Manager vs. Leader

Manager
Leader
Focus on structure
Focus on people
Focus on results
Focus on achievements
Focus on now
Focus on visionary
Asks how and when
Asks what and why
Uses traditional ways
Uses new ways
Takes credit
Gives credit
Blames others
Takes the blame
Reacts to change
Creates change
Look at the bottom line
Looks far ahead
Does things right
Does the right thing
Takes control
Gives control
Pressures others
Persuades others
Demands results
Encourages results
Takes ownership
Empowers ownership
Looks for stability
Looks for change
Works for money
Works for challenges
Makes rules
Rules are there to be changed
Is about being right
Is about what is right
Imitates
Originates
Has employees
Has followers
Directs
Creates
Wants to be a hero
Makes heroes
Power over employees
Power to their employees
Has ideas
Implements ideas
Administers
Invents
Controls
Inspires
Staunch
Resilient
Uses resources to do job
Vision how to do better

Difference between Manager and Leader

  • Managers like to control most things and keep control, where a Leader likes to encourage people to excel and create.
  • Managers like to keep the reins tight and the Leader likes to empower people to greater ability.
  • Managers like to think they are the most intelligent and no one can do better, Leaders hire the most intelligent and inspire them.
  • Managers feel they have to know everything, Leaders know they don’t have to know everything they hire the experts - that do know.
  • Managers feel threatened by knowledge and degrees, Leaders hire people with knowledge and degrees and know they make him/her look good.
  • Managers have subordinates work for them and do what they are told; Leaders use charisma and inspire people to excel.

Leaders inspire people to go above and beyond, Managers expect them to do their job.

Summing Up

In summing up there is a big difference in the way these two types of people do the management of their company/business. The problem comes in when the company/business does not know there are different ways to direct and hire the wrong one while wanting the other type.


Before they hire someone they need to know what traits that they value and want. That gives them a better idea of what type of personality they want.


  • If they want a dogmatic or opinionated person they probably want a manager.
  • If they want to look for long-range plans or toward the future they should hire a leader.
  • If they want someone to carry out their orders and stick to the rules they should hire a manager.
  • If they want someone who gets more work out of their employees and enjoys working, inspires and empowers their workers, they should hire a leader.


The main thing is for all of the board of directors and owners to hire the person who will fit within their structure. That will carry out their mission statement, ideals and goals.

When they hire the wrong type, it causes problems;

  • not only with the board of directors or owners
  • but with the employees, because they don’t know who to listen to
  • how they should be doing their jobs
  • or if they even want to work there.


There CEO or Director is one of the most important people that they hire –

  1. to get the right fit

  2. in the right place

  3. at the right time.

The decision to hire a ‘Manager” or a “Leader” takes time and research.


In explaining the difference between a manager and a leader, did this article explain the difference styles?

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