5 Mindsets of Highly Successful Managers

In the lead up to the New Year, we have been looking at this idea of “mindset.” The mindset of highly successful people, leaders and, today, organizational managers. 

Mindset is key for anyone; it is especially key for leaders and those who manage our most precious resources, people. 

Last week we discussed the mindsets of a leader. You may be asking, “What is the difference between the mindset of a leader and a manager? Aren’t they the same?” To which I would respond, “Not exactly.” 

Based on what I have coined The Cannonball Matrix (more on this later), leaders and managers have different roles within the organizational system. While the focus of the organizational leader is on the vision of the organization and the organizational system itself, the focus of the manager is on improving the system from within the system for the betterment of the teams whose primary focus is creation and innovation. These are two very different roles within the organization requiring very different mindsets. Last week, we stated the mindsets of the organizational leader are towards Growth, Empowerment and Total Focus. These are “big picture” ways of thinking. 

The organizational manager must balance “big picture” thinking, but from within the organizational system. Controlling the system. Moving the system. Improving the system. Empowering the creators, innovators and frontline staff. 

This article is about the 5 Mindsets of a Highly Successful Manager. 

Let’s dive in. 


The manager’s job is to remove obstacles towards dynamic creation, innovation and customer service. Period. End of story. 

Managers have the most difficult roles within the organization. They must enact the will of executive leadership while empowering the front-line staff. They must improve upon the system built and maintained by others while working within the system, for better or for worse. They must be able to think on the organizational level while leading on the departmental and team level. They must work hard and succeed even though their success is no longer tied to their personal work ethic. The manager must lead and follow. The success of the creators, innovators and front-line staff are in their hands. Their job is to be present while also getting out of the way. 

In order to accomplish all of this, the manager must have the mindset of service; to evolve from thinking of self-achievement to team and organizational achievement. 

Personal ambition must be forgotten in favor of team and organizational ambition. In this process, there is a loss of personal identity. 

Managers must exist with the mindset of serving the organization, serving the will and edicts of executive leadership and serving those who create the product and service the client. 


We discussed this idea of empowerment last week; the act of giving away power. 

Highly successful managers seek to give away power to those who are creating, innovating or interacting directly with the customer. While maintaining the company mission and values, the manager allows freedom to her direct reports in how to accomplish the mission. 

The customer has a specific need? The frontline team member has the power to meet this need. The innovation requires new materials or an outside set of human resources? The innovation team has the power to acquire new materials and hire the personnel needed to accomplish the project. The creation of the product will require more time than expected? Within reason, the creative team will be given time needed to accomplish the task. 

The manager does not seek to hold onto power. Rather, he seeks to give it away towards the aim of the organization. 


In Jim Collins’ newly released version of one of his earlier books, BE 2.0, he talks about this idea of trust. Collins shares how early in his career he hesitated trusting people. However, his mentor Bill Lazier helped him to push through this limiting belief about trust. Lazier stated these words to a much younger Collins: 

“Jim, this is one of the forks in the road of life. On one path, you first assume that someone is trustworthy and you hold that view until you have incontrovertible evidence to the contrary; on the other path, you first assume that someone isn’t trustworthy until he or she proves to you that trust is merited. You have to choose which path you want to walk and stick with it.” 

Jim then asks the following question: “But what about the fact that people are not always trustworthy?” To which the wise Bill Lazier responds: “I choose to assume the best in people and accept that they sometimes disappoint.” 

Collins later writes his fully evolved belief: “If you assume people are not trustworthy, you will demotivate and drive away the very best people… there is more upside and less downside to opening a bid of trust than an opening a bid of mistrust.” Collins refers to this as the “Trust Wager.” 

The highly successful manager understands the importance of trusting the people she leads. Because the manager spends her most impactful interactions with the front-line staff, creators, innovators and customer service teams, she understands the power of trust. This idea of trust is directly correlated to empowerment. You cannot fully empower (give power to) others if you have a mindset of mistrust. 

If I can be honest, I would say this: Lack of a trusting mindset speaks more about the manager than it does about the people he or she leads. A very wise man once told me, “An untrusting person is an untrustworthy person.”The older I become the more this statement rings true to me. How one sees themselves is how one sees the world. If you, as a person or leader, struggle with trusting others I want to highly suggest that you do the personal work needed to overcome your mistrust of others. More than likely there is something deep in your past that caused you an undue amount of pain or hardship. Work through this issue with the help of a professional, if you can. A great manager must not allow person grievances – conscious or unconscious – to guide and direct their leadership. 

A final quote from Bill Lazier: “…people rise to what you believe of them.” 

Your level of belief in your people and team will be the level they rise to. 

The highly successful manager understands this, hires the best and right people and places an inordinate amount of trust in them, unless and until the person does something to merit distrust either intentionally (lack of character) or unintentionally (lack of competence). 

Trust your people and watch them thrive. 


We spoke about this issue last week, so I will not belabor the point. Highly successful managers have growth mindsets. They understand most people can and want to grow. Therefore, they work hard to provide a culture of growth where opportunities abound to move to the next level. 

Most importantly, highly successful managers are growth-oriented themselves. They seek opportunities to grow personally and professionally and enable others to do the same. They look out among their departments and teams of creators, innovators and front-line staff for the person looking to move into management and then work hard to help them achieve their desired potential. 

Great managers never demand of their teams and people more than what they demand of themselves. They also never expect less. Growth is a mandatory state of being for a highly successful manager and his or her team. 


In addition to following orders from the executive leadership team, empowering their own teams and departments and being on the lookout for the next generation of managers, highly successful managers are always looking for ways to improve the system of the organization. 

In his groundbreaking book, The New Economics, W. Edwards Deming states the following:

“A manager understands and conveys to his people the meaning of a system. He explains the aims of the system. He teaches his people to understand how the work of the group supports these aims.” 

Deming continues, “He helps his people to see themselves as components in a system, to work in cooperation with preceding stages and with following stages toward optimization of the efforts of all stages toward achievement of the aim.” 

So, what is a system? 

Edward Deming defines a system as “a network of interdependent components that work together to try and accomplish the aim of the system.” Following up, Deming states a system must have (1) an aim (or vision), (2) knowledge of the interrelationships between the components of the system and (3) intentional management. Demings states, “Left to themselves in the Western world, components become selfish, competitive, independent profit centres, and thus destroy the system.”

To expound deeper, the organizational system includes (1) the separate components, (2) the processes, (3) the structures and (4) the strategy + culture. The components of the system refer to the different departments within the system. The processes are the rules (written and unwritten) for how the work get accomplished. The structures are the elements of the system that govern the system (ex. Board, executive team, management, etc.). The strategy + culture is are the ideals (purpose, vision and mission) and human behaviors (conscious and subconscious) that hold the system together. 

Executive leaders have the responsibility to work on the system and make improvements from the outside. Managers have the responsibility to work within system and make changes from the inside. The aim of the organization does not change, but the components, processes, structures and strategy + culture might change. The highly successful manager is always on the lookout within the organizational system for changes that can be made to help achieve the aim of the system. 

You can see how difficult the role of the manager is within the organization. It is the toughest role and is the path to executive leadership. The successful manager must be able to juggle competing interests well. 

It starts with mindset. 

Serve your people. Empower your people. Trust your people. Grow your people. Leave the system better than you found it. 

This is the path to management success. 

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