Are You Still Thinking Like An Employee?

by | Oct 19, 2020

Do you have a leadership mindset? Or are you still thinking like an employee?

Many people start businesses because they find something they love or that they’re good at doing. They want to do more of it – so they literally ‘make it their business’ to do so. Whether it’s a product or service they provide, they start by delivering it personally – and are emotionally involved in doing a good job. That’s all very well, except it isn’t a job – and they’re not an employee. They are a leader – and yet, sometimes, their mindset hasn’t made that transition.

Different Mindsets

There is a distinct difference in mindset between an employee’s view of business and a leader’s view.


Basically want a fair wage, job security and a workplace that’s safe. Most also like to have some choice in what they do, and in how they do it.
Follow the leader, watching what they say and do, first. Employees execute the leader’s decisions.


Amongst other goals for the business, your aim is ensure profitability, productivity and performance.
Everything starts with you. As a leader, you set the example and go first. Feel the fear and take action anyway.
Which of these resonates most with you?

If you set up your business for the reasons listed in the first bulletpoint, above – because you wanted freedom and choice in what, how and when you do work, it’s possible that you are still in the employee mindset.

Do You Do?

Some business owners get absorbed in operational issues, lost in the day-to-day tasks of ‘doing’ work, instead of ‘being’ a leader.

This is particularly pertinent in the case of sole traders and start-ups, although frighteningly enough, some established business owners still have difficulty making the transition from employee mindset to leadership mindset.

Doing everything themselves, they end up working longer hours, exchanging their own time for money, in the belief that working harder is the difference that will make the difference for their business. Reality check: working harder doesn’t work. You need to work smarter. And this means being a leader.

The Price Of Leadership

Leave employees to ‘do’ the detail, while you focus on the big picture – ‘being’ a leader, rather than doing the work yourself.

If you don’t have enough employees, or don’t have staff with the skills, experience or qualities you need – recruit them, or outsource to specialists – whether they are consultants, accountants or cleaners. I know one director of an established company who ends up hoovering because it’s ‘easier’ to do it herself and she finds it ‘meditative’. But she is effectively paying herself £40 per hour to clean, when she could be paying someone a fraction of that, enabling her to concentrate on the strategic direction of the business, and ultimately make more profits.

Here’s An Exercise For You:

  1. Calculate your own hourly rate (if you don’t already know it). Either divide your salary or dividends into an hourly rate; or identify the rate you charge external clients for your time, as a director, business owner or for your specialism. E.g. for training, coaching or consultancy, you might charge £100-200 per hour.
  2. Consider a typical day or week at work. Think of the tasks you do, and how you spend your time, hour by hour.
  3. Which tasks could someone else could do (if they became familiar with your systems)? E.g. filing, typing, emails, accounts and invoicing, budgets, making tea/coffee, sales calls, copywriting, attending meetings. Think of all the things that use up your time but aren’t driving your business forward.
  4. How much are you charging your business for you to make your own tea / check your accounts / answer your own phone / attend that meeting – or any other tasks?
  5. What would it cost for you to outsource such tasks to other people who could do them better, cheaper or faster than you?
  6. How much could you save, by not doing those tasks yourself?
  7. How much money could you make, if you concentrated your time on strategy and business development, instead?

Leadership involves stepping back from operations and taking in the overall view – focusing on your vision, mission and ultimate goals for the business. And leadership doesn’t just require you to look within, at your business – you need to look externally and have a perspective on the market, your industry, and the economic and political landscape, too. This takes time and head-space.

Conduct Your Own Orchestra

To really build and grow your business, your leadership mindset needs to evolve. You can no longer rely on yourself to deliver the goods. You can no longer believe that everything must be done by yourself, or you’re the only one who can meet your standards. It’s like having a passion for playing a musical instrument, and hoping you can deliver a symphony.

It’s time to see yourself as the coordinator – getting others to do the work necessary, by inspiring and motivating them with your vision and passion. The conductor of an orchestra does not race around playing every instrument individually, hoping it sounds beautiful. Instead, they orchestrate who plays the notes to the tune, how and when they want them to. Conduct your orchestra like the leader you are, and you’ll achieve something beautiful.