What’s the difference between an employee and a leader?

Toku McCree
2 min readMay 2, 2022

Leadership is about more than responsibility

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

You might say it’s responsibility or scope of work, but very often the biggest difference is mindset.

An employee thinks about their work as a series of tasks to get done.

Those tasks are clearly defined and their job is to complete them to the satisfaction of their manager or boss. If something isn’t working they might do their best to fix it, but if it’s outside the scope of their job they might also just tell their boss and wait for a solution to be offered.

A leader thinks about their work as a vision that needs to get created.

They think about what they want to happen, they assume it’s possible, and then they work to figure out how to make that happen. They have conversations, invent new ways of doing and thinking, ask tough questions, and overcome obstacles in order to bring their vision into a reality. If something goes wrong they accept and adapt as needed.

Most of us would prefer to lead teams of leaders.

And yet so many leaders treat their teams as employees. Leaders want their team to do what they would do. So they direct, control, and limit. Worse still they treat their teams as obstacles that need to get fixed, falling into their own employee mindset.

The world doesn’t need more workers. We need more leaders. And we need leaders who touch, move, and inspire others to lead.



Toku McCree

Executive coach and writer. I’ve toured with rock bands, trained as a zen monk, and taught preschool. My hope is that my writing makes you think.