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What's The Origin Of The Word “boss” And Why It's Completely Different From Leadership.

Why do we call our superiors boss and how did this word become part of our everyday vocabulary. 

The word boss originated from a Dutch word "baas" that means “master” according to Jonathon Haeber. Its use was a uniquely American way of avoiding the word "master," which had quickly become associated with slavery by the mid-19th century.


Have you ever heard the phrase “my boss is a slave driver” note the words boss and slave? In those days many workers were fond of using 'boss' primarily because they despised calling their superior 'master.' But all their efforts were in vain because the connotation of the word remains the same despite all effort to normalize its existence. 


It drives me up a wall when people use the word boss interchangeably with leadership; the two are entirely different as illustrated by Lolly Daskal:


  • A boss has no interest in people development ; a leader is interested in helping them grow and develop.

  • A boss takes the credit ; a leader gives credit to others.

  • The boss says, "Go!" ; the leader says, "Let's go!"

  • A boss drives others ; a leader coaches them toward their best performance.

  • A boss instills fear ; a leader inspires enthusiasm.

  • A boss blames others ; a leader works to help repair the damage and understand what happened so it won't occur again.

  • A boss thinks in terms of him or herself; a leader thinks in terms of we.

  • A boss knows how it's done ; a leader shows how it's done.

  • A boss depends on his or her own authority ; a leader depends, along with the entire team, on mutual accountability and trust.


It easy to use fear as a tool for motivation, it takes nothing to intimidate people into working an extra shift or carrying out a task that is morally wrong or making changes that have no relevance with the organization purpose, vision or values. When you choose to be a leader, you are now someone who value people, who use influence to inspire people to go the extra mile, someone who is a great communicator and has the ability to connect with people at any level in the organisation, someone who seeks the interest of people on and off the pitch. 






You don't have to look very hard to see that we already have plenty of bosses in the world who care precious little about anyone but themselves. But times are changing, and many organization will have no other choice but to step up into leadership because great organizations know that remarkable things can be accomplished when great leadership exists throughout the entire organization. 

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About Gifford Thomas


I am the founder of Leadership First and the author of The Inspirational Leader, Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible. At Leadership First, we are committed to publishing the very best inspirational leadership quotes and articles to inspire our 125,000+ community of leaders to believe in the impossible, while creating an environment free from toxic, fearful and intimidating leadership. We believe everyone can and should enjoy their work, but it must start with the leadership leading by example. Follow our community of leaders HERE, and let's change the leadership status quo to help inspire and motivate our leaders to make a difference and create an organization their people will love. 


You can download a copy of my book The Inspirational Leader and Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible by clicking on the word inspirational below:


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