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Manager Mentality vs. Leader Mentality

Updated: Apr 1

The Difference Between a Manager and a Leader… and Why It Matters



Change is inevitable. The world is in a constant state of flux. We must adapt and evolve with the changing times if we want to lead meaningful, purposeful lives. The same holds true for organizations; the success and profitability of an organization depends on its adaptability to change. Influencing change in one person can be a challenge, but an entire group? That’s on a much grander scale. People have to want to change; it can’t be forced or else it won’t stand for the long haul. This is where the difference between being a manager and being a leader bears most of the weight: managers monitor productivity and output whereas leaders empower other and foster growth. Growth is the ability to change.

The Manager Mentality:

Managers are task oriented. Their purpose is to oversee worker-bees and check off the boxes to ensure everything is running smoothly. Their responsibility is to facilitate a specific measurable outcome; straying from the checkboxes is frowned upon and questioning the status quo is seen as inefficient. A “manager mentality” prioritizes productivity and profitability at the expense of innovation and creativity. Anything that could possibly steal time from productivity is considered a hinderance. What this mentality fails to realize is that creativity and innovation are key ingredients to the longevity of an organization.

This isn’t to downplay the importance of productivity and profitability; both are imperative to the success of any business, but the overall morale crumbles when an organization focuses solely on cranking out work to feed the bottom line. What is missing is a leadership mentality. Without it, the culture will become monotonous and stale. People will feel stuck, unmotivated and burned out. People don’t want to be bossed around, they want to be trusted and listened to.


Managers in Toxic Workplaces:

When the top tiers of an organization rule with a “manager mentality” you’ll find yourself in a company that is solely focused on the bottom line. There is no room for growth or innovation in these companies. Status quo is part of the culture and questioning that will push you to the outside. Managers are rewarded for staying within the lines and doing exactly what they’re told. Managers are promoted by how tightly they can fit into the corporate box. They do things based on the company rule book, even when it doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately, those with true leadership skills will find their way out the door and on to new horizons. Only those willing to go through the motions and maintain the status quo will stick around (and become unfulfilled). This eventually leads to an obsolete organization.


The Leader Mentality:

When employees feel trusted and valued, they will be motivated to contribute to the greater good of the company, which in turn makes for a profitable organization. This is why shifting from a manager mentality to a leader mentality is the key to longevity and success. Leaders connect with people. They have a genuine interest and curiosity for what motivates others and strive to find ways to improve an organization. They are willing to go out on a limb if it means a possibility for change. They inspire those around them and lead the charge to change the status quo. In Seth Godin’s book, Tribes, he states, “… growth comes from leaders who create change and engage their organizations, instead of from managers who push their employees to do more for less.” A leader understands that productivity is more than producing a widget within a fixed period of time deemed to be efficient by management. A leader questions how the time restraint was decided upon in the first place and whether the widget can be produced in a different way… or scrapped altogether in pursuit of something better. Leaders pry and prod the status quo; never settling for “good enough” and always pushing for the “what if“ scenario. They take risks and are willing to make mistakes because they know mistakes will lead them to the change needed to grow.


Lack of Leadership in Toxic Workplaces:

In every toxic workplace, you can trace the toxicity up the ladder to the top of the organizational chart. What you’ll find there is a lack of leadership mentality. You may find managers ruling with a manager mentality. You may find an egotistical, charming narcissist that is playing their managers for fools and hoarding the profit. You may find a corruption of power dominated by politics and a “what’s in it for me” outlook. Maybe you’ll find a bunch of managers that have no idea what they’re doing and zero awareness of what leadership truly embodies. One thing is certain, you will never find a leader that empowers the organization by using their influence to lift others up as a strategy to achieve greatness as a whole. Issues in the workplace boil down to a lack of leadership from its owners and directors.