Who wouldn't want to be the boss? You get to call the shots and tell everyone what to do. You get a nice office, an even nicer paycheck and all those perks. What's not to like?

It turns out, though, not as many employees as you might think aspire to being the boss. Fewer than 1 in 4, according to a Pew Research Center report. That figure is all the more surprising since bosses express higher levels of job satisfaction than do workers, are as likely to maintain work/life balance and are more satisfied with their home life as well.

Are bosses just lucky, or is there something different that sets them apart from their co-workers?

For starters, it helps to be an older white male. That was the typical profile of the bosses in the Pew study. About a third more men than women identified themselves as bosses or top managers, and whites were nearly three times as likely to be at the top of the career ladder than either blacks or Hispanics.

Clearly, there are socioeconomic factors that favor certain individuals. Age appears to be less of a bias than a reflection of the time and experience required to work one's way up through levels of management. Today's bosses also tend to be college-educated.

In other ways, though, bosses and workers are surprisingly similar. One might assume that individuals who aspire to become bosses are motivated by different rewards than are their co-workers.

The Pew study, however, found that bosses and workers value much the same things from their jobs (work they enjoy doing, job security and the ability to take time off for child or family care needs) and place less value on earning a big salary. In fact, workers were more likely than top managers to place a higher value on having a good benefits package.

One notable difference that emerges from the study is how employees think about their jobs. Bosses and top managers are significantly more likely than workers to think of their job as a career (78 percent vs. 44 percent) and less likely to say it's just a job to get them by (13 percent vs. 36 percent). Bosses also are more likely to say they have sufficient education and training to help them succeed (73 percent vs. 57 percent).

This suggests that those who make it to the top levels of management do so because they have set themselves a career goal and mapped out a plan of advancement to get them there. Their personal and professional satisfaction derives from a sense of accomplishment more than from any tangible rewards attached to their position.

Not all bosses are cut from the same cloth, of course. There will always be those individuals who want the power, the glory and the gold. But for many execs, the Pew findings suggest, what sets them apart from their co-workers is that instead of wishing they were the boss, they pursued a path to get them to the top.