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Distinction between Boss vs. Leader - What is the difference between being a leader and "boss"?

Submitted by kgnadmin on

While working on board the ship for more than ten years, I have had the opportunity to work with some outstanding leaders and also with some horrible managers. As crew members, we constantly adjust and learn how to achieve company objectives under different kinds of managers. How should companies improve their management standards, incorporate new management training, and achieve a more efficient management level? More attention should be given to this matter because cruise ship companies are very busy achieving all the desired revenues and financial targets; somehow, the importance of efficient management is secondary. I had the opportunity to work for some amazingly inspiring leaders who taught me many things and showed me how to be very productive at my work on the ship. Those leaders helped me survive long contracts and become the best version of myself.

On the other hand, most of the time, I worked with untrained, biased managers who needed appropriate management training and needed to be at the required leadership level. Those times were difficult for me and my colleagues because having a bad boss on the cruise ship can make such a negative difference when you are stuck at sea for 6-9 months at a time. In the next few days, we will focus on becoming better managers who can provide employees with a continuously inspiring attitude and serve as genuine leader. Working on the cruise ship in any supervisory role in your respective departments will positively impact your management approach on board the ship. In the next few days, we will examine the most productive ways to improve our managerial skills and try to understand the major difference between the terms "boss" and "leader."

Supervisors and managers should consistently analyze their leadership styles to ensure they're effectively guiding their teams.

To become a good leader, you should influence, inspire, and mentor your team members. Great leaders incorporate key strategies such as delegating, being thoughtful, facilitating open communication, and setting clear expectations. Being promoted to a management role is a huge accomplishment, but many professionals find the responsibility more challenging than they imagined. Being someone's boss doesn't necessarily mean you're a good leader.

Effective leadership is increasingly essential in the workplace as more and more employees on the ship leave otherwise excellent cruise line companies over one resolvable element – bad bosses.

There are crucial differences between bosses and leaders, so analyzing your leadership style ensures you're effectively steering your team in the right direction.

What are the differences between a boss and a leader?

According to the father of modern management, Peter Drucker, all business managers must be leaders above all else. But when many professionals step into management or supervisory roles, they wonder, "What are the qualities of a boss versus a leader?"

Bosses command; leaders influence.

A boss's authority comes from their position. In contrast, a leader's authority comes from their ability to influence others.

A boss is there to ensure that employees follow the rules of an organization, but a leader will encourage others to think for themselves to achieve the desired ends. A boss will need to give orders to instruct others on what to do, but a leader can inspire others to find the best way forward while motivating them to maximize their potential.

Although subordinates follow bosses only because they have to, bosses can grow their influence by encouraging the behavior. You can grow your influence by caring for your team, listening to their thoughts and ideas, and sharing the 'why' behind your decisions and actions. This is the second step in leadership, but it makes all the difference, and people will follow you because they want to and not just because they have to.

Bosses explain; leaders inspire.

You shouldn't just explain a task and leave it in your employee's hands. A boss ensures you understand your work, while a leader supports and guides you.

The biggest difference between a leader and a boss is that a good leader inspires people and excites them about their work. 

Success takes passion; workers will only be as driven to perform their best with the desire to complete tasks. As their leader, you should motivate them by letting them know the importance of their work.

Bosses discipline; leaders mentor.

Employees are human, and mistakes are to be expected. Who you are as a boss is evident in how you deal with mishaps. While bosses are likelier to use a reward-and-punishment system to discourage poor behavior, great leaders understand that employees benefit from encouragement and mentorship. If an employee performs well in a specific line of work, that strength should be recognized and mastered.

One key element of leadership is the ability to harness the talents of others to achieve a common goal.

It's essential to note each employee's strengths and weaknesses and mentor them independently. Rather than attacking skill gaps, work to patch them by guiding employees through their shortcomings and building their confidence in new areas. 

Bosses delegate tasks; leaders delegate authority.

A boss focuses on their department's objectives and follows protocol to achieve them. They think for the short term, delegate tasks to their subordinates, and tend to micromanage.

A boss has vital objectives, while a leader sets the team's long-term vision and uses it as "a key motivator."

A boss gets results by telling people what to do and is concerned with doing it right. A leader is skilled at results by enabling their team to figure out what to do and is concerned with doing what is right.

Leaders seek to drive commitment by setting an example for others to follow and inspire others by encouraging development. "They are comfortable delegating authority and avoid micromanaging, preferring to see others develop. Utilizing their excellent communication and negotiation skills, they will influence others for the organization's overall benefit."

Bosses are above the team; leaders are part of the team.

This is what makes such a big difference while we work on the cruise ship. A boss doesn't take the time to get to know their employees as a leader does. Bosses view their team members as subordinates, while leaders let go of this hierarchical distinction and view their team members as equal contributors. 

To be a leader in the cruise ship industry, you must facilitate positive relationships with your employees. Work with their needs and create a culture that encourages open communication. That will boost the productivity levels on the ship, and crew members will appreciate you and value your true leadership.

By getting to know your team better, you'll understand how to explain your vision in a way that will connect with each person. This means you can personalize the way you motivate people. It can be done in your unique way, and that is the true beauty of leadership.


Good leaders are genuine and loyal, setting an example for their company. If you lack passion or motivation, odds are your team will too. Don't be afraid to be human – be real and express your emotions to connect with your workers. It's ok if we show empathy and compassion to our fellow crew members; your supervising position does not need you to always act untouchable on the ship.

Crew Insights

Articles and experiences shared by crew members working on cruise ship. Find out more about ship life at sea together with tips and advices for first time crew members and cruise oldtimers.