Shakespeare wisely wrote: “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” Anyone who has held a position of leadership knows what that sentence means.

Being a boss and being a leader are two entirely different things. Bosses tell others what to do and have decision-making responsibilities. Leaders inspire those around them. What actions a leader inspires is based on whether that person is a good leader or a bad one.

Bosses aren’t necessarily bad, and leaders are not automatically good. Not everyone is meant to be a boss or a leader, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If everyone were in charge nothing would ever get done.

If you are tasked with managing people, it’s time to evaluate whether you’re a boss, or a leader, and what type of boss or leader you are. If you’re not sure, read on and see if you find yourself in these words.

Many people think there is power in telling someone: “no.” The truth is, finding a way to make something happen and being the person who finds a way to say “yes” is where the power is. Authority is given, respect is earned. Do you want to be the person responsible for progress or the person who stops things from happening?

True leadership has been defined as inspiring others to do what you want them to do because they want to do it. Good leaders conduct themselves as people worth emulating. They do not demand others to follow, nor do they lead by intimidation. Good leaders’ followers want to earn their approval, and strive to do their best to earn the leaders’ respect. If you find your style is to use fear as a way of handling those you manage, you’re not a leader, you’re a bully.

Good leaders surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are and never stop learning. They are not afraid to admit that they don’t know everything, and they embrace change, learning and the process of continuing to strive to be more. True leaders know the journey never ends; the more you know the more you realize you need to learn. If you think you know it all, that’s a clear indication that your attitude may need some work.

People come in all shapes and sizes and their personalities are just as varied as their looks. Leaders take the time to recognize and acknowledge people’s differences and strike a balance between treating everyone with the same amount of respect while tailoring their learning style to the person with whom they are speaking. Leaders not only see people’s differences, they take the time to embrace those differences and use people’s individual strengths to maximize potential.

So back to Shakespeare. If leaders are able to inspire, lead, motivate and help mold people, what’s to complain about? It’s essential to remember that with power comes responsibility and with responsibility comes a need to be diligent in ones words and actions. While no one is perfect, a leader needs to be aware that their words have meaning, are being listened to and taken seriously and that their actions affect those around them. Sometimes that means making tough choices, doing the right thing even though that’s usually the hard thing to do, and staying true to their ethics, standards and principles.

It’s worth a quick mention that charismatic, inspiring, intelligent leaders can also use those qualities for the wrong reasons. It’s not hard to think of people who have changed the world by getting masses of people to follow them down a dark path.

Whether a leader sets a good example or a bad one, many are apt to follow. So whether you’re a leader or a follower, pay attention to your actions, reactions and set a good example. If you’re a role model for even one person, you’ve led someone down a better life path.

Next: MBEC 32.03 — Demonstrate ethical behavior

See all 33 skills you need to be an effective planner.