As Graça Machel said at a recent talk I attended: "we have too many rulers, and not enough leaders".
Rulers are inaccessible - behind barriers that keep them separated, aloof, above and apparently superior. Leaders are available to us as much as possible. They're relatable. Winston Churchill laying bricks and walking the war-torn streets. Nelson Mandela showing up unofficially at the local shopping mall, restaurant, or school to meet people and talk.
Now you might think this only relates to government leaders with blue light brigades & body-guards, but this is every bit as true for the world of corporate business where politics & ego can eclipse purpose and team.
Rulers are complex, inscrutable, unpredictable, controlling, moody. We might be in trouble at any moment. Their standards might change on a whim. Leaders are clear, fair, consistent, trusting. And we can be our best because we feel protected and free to do our best. Rulers invest more in compliance systems, Leaders invest more in support systems.
Rulers focus on rules to keep us in line. Leaders focus on vision to show us where to go.
What's the difference? Purpose! Leaders help us understand, very clearly, what we're working to achieve, and give us a shared sense of responsibility in that. So we feel united rather than separated. Leaders are focused on the purpose, not themselves and their own power.