The Difference Between Being Assertive & Aggressive (Which One are You?)

senior businessman cross handsA great leader needs to have certain traits to be successful.

One of the most important ones is the ability to be assertive.

A manager must be able to stand their ground, prove their point and get others to do what they need them to in order to be respected.

However, it is not uncommon for some leaders to take the idea of being assertive too far and become aggressive.

That is a type of leader no one wants or needs.

They are angry, insulting and oftentimes scary.

How do you know if you are being assertive or aggressive?

Learn the differences!


An assertive person is not overly passive, and doesn’t have a problem speaking in front of others or directing others to do something.

They are not shy, and don’t feel like they can’t say something directly to those reporting to them for fear of making them feel disrespected or uneasy.

An assertive talker will speak up, talk clearly and have the utmost confidence.

An aggressive leader, on the other hand, will take the assertiveness too far when they speak.

They tend to be overly loud, often yelling, even though their team members are usually in the same room with them.

They have no problem speaking over others or interrupting them whenever they see fit.

It’s not uncommon for aggressive bosses to get enraged and yell at a person in the middle of a meeting or whenever something doesn’t go their way.

Nonverbal Cues

Other than what is said, many nonverbal behaviours can also come out to be aggressive, although they are not vocalised.

For example, while a shy person can have trouble making eye contact and will show that they are uncomfortable by crossing their arms, an assertive person will make direct eye contact and will stand straight with an inviting posture.

On the other hand, an aggressive boss will want to make the listener feel uncomfortable and exert their power over them.

Instead of simply having good eye contact, they can stare at the other person, making them feel ill at ease.

They will often try to dominate the room by standing with legs wide apart and putting their arms on their hips and getting into other people’s personal space.

An aggressive boss is one who makes their employees feel incredibly uncomfortable and creates an unhappy working environment.

To correct this, it’s important for leaders to learn strategies to remain assertive and in charge, but create a more welcoming environment where their employees are valued and respected.

Thanks again

Mark Williams

Senior Management Trainer and Consultant

MTD Training   

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Updated on: 23 January, 2018

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