Mindset Differences by Level in the Organizational Hierarchy

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

organizational hierarchy

I recently partnered with Aimpoint Research to investigate how mindsets might differ across different demographic profiles, including political affiliation, income level, gender, education level, generation, geographic region (in the United States).

I am finding the results quite interesting. I am in the middle of several articles, I will be sharing related to this research. Here are the other articles that I have compiled so far:

This week, I’m covering how mindsets differ by level in the organizational hierarchy (Executive, Leader, Manager, Individual Contributor) from a sample taken in the United States. There aren’t any trends. Thus, there aren’t any predictable increases or decreases across the four mindsets as one moves up or down the organizational hierarchy. But, there are some very interesting findings and takeaways.

Research Information

Our sample was designed to be a decently close representation of the United States population at large. We ended with a sample of 587.

What I am presenting to you is the average mindset scores across different levels of the organizational hierarchy. To me, the differences are meaningful, but they ARE NOT technically statistically significant.

What this means is that we can infer that while one group (e.g., Individual Contributors) may have a more negative mindset than another group (e.g., Executives), we will surely find some individual contributors that have more positive mindsets than some executives.

Regardless, it is interesting to see the differences.

Mindset Differences by Level in the Organizational Hierarchy

Here are the results:

Mindsets By Organizational Heirarchy

Big Picture Findings:

  • Growth Mindset. The group with the most growth mindsets is the Executive/C-Suite group. But, interestingly, the group with the least growth mindsets is the level just below the Executive/C-Suite group: Division Leader group. One way to interpret this is that the Division Leader group is the most focused on avoiding failure and looking good. Because of that, they are most inclined to avoid challenges and to only do the things that they know they can be successful with. They seem to be a group that is not very future-ready.
  • Open Mindset. While Division Leaders are the most fixed-minded, they are the most open-minded. The groups that are the least open-minded are the two Manager groups.
  • Promotion Mindset. The two Manager groups are also the least promotion-minded. This means that they are more focused on avoiding problems than on reaching goals. This might be understandable/justifiable, but it is going to prevent engagement and effectiveness of employees. Interestingly, the more-experienced Managers are less promotion-minded than the less-experienced Managers.
  • Outward Mindset. It doesn’t shock me to see that the group with the least outward mindsets is the Individual Contributor group. But, it is a little surprising to see the experienced managers as being the most outward-minded.

If I am someone focused on developing the employees in my organization, here is what I would prioritize given these findings:

  • Help Division Leaders to become more future-ready by helping them develop more of a growth mindset. This will also improve the organization’s overall leadership pipeline.
  • Help Managers be more engaging and psychologically safe by helping them develop more open and promotion mindsets.
  • Help Individual Contributors focus less on not failing (low growth mindset) and less on themselves (inward mindset). Not only will they operate more effectively in their roles, but you will help prepare them to manage if that is part of their desires.

While these are very interesting findings, they are also generalities. These results DO NOT suggest, for example, that all Division Leaders are fixed-minded and that all Experienced Managers are all outward-minded.

If you want to take the mindset assessment for yourself, you can take it here: FREE Personal Mindset Assessment

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