Line Managers Vs Mentors!

At first glance, line managers and mentors can look very similar. LineManager and Mentor Cartoon 1

People’s relationships with their line managers are quite different from their relationships with their mentors, so this isn’t right. 

Managing these relationships is key to success in your career! This is outlined clearly in our line manager training!

What Is A Line Manager?

Just what is a Line Manager? And where is the difference between manager vs mentor?

Line managers are the first layer in an organisation’s management structure.

They are responsible for running small operational teams and ensuring that day-to-day tasks are completed efficiently and effectively. 

Line managers are typically responsible for organising work rotas, checking completed work, and ensuring that their team works as a team. 

It is a broad role, as line managers in turn report to the next level of more senior management in an organisation.

Acting as a line manager is the first management role most people have held.

What Is A Mentor?

So now we know what a Line Manager is, let’s discuss the other side of mentor vs manager!

A mentor is someone who offers knowledge and guidance to someone with less experience

Mentoring has three general functions

  1. To provide vocational support,
  2. To provide psychosocial support, and
  3. To provide a role model. 

Given the holistic support that mentoring offers employees, it is often used to boost employee engagement and retention.

Mentoring can be formal or informal.

It is often offered by people who have occupied senior leadership positions and so can offer their mentee a ‘bird’s eye’ view of things.

In an informal environment, the relationship is unstructured, and its impact and the outcomes it generates are usually not measured. 

In a formal environment, specific, measurable goals are usually used and assessed. 

Mentoring is similar to coaching, but it’s a more holistic process. Coaching is generally focused around achieving a specific outcome. 

Successful mentorship depends on the mentor and mentee sharing mutual goals, respect, and trust. 

It is worth noting that while traditionally a mentor is older than their mentee, that is not a necessity. As workplaces become increasingly multigenerational, these relationships are becoming increasingly varied.

Mentors are very important for preventing team conflict!

5 Differences Between A Line Manager And A Mentor

Both line managers and mentors aim to help individuals achieve success. However, their approaches are quite different. 

Let’s look at the key differences:

1. Line Manager vs Mentor: Giving Advice.

Line managers focus on accomplishing short-term organisational targets like productivity, profitability, and service levels. 

A line manager’s decisions are closely tied to the aims of the organisation that they work for. They will focus on the aims of their employer with their teams.

The focus of a mentor is on personal and career growth

A mentor-mentee relationship revolves around sharing knowledge and experience. Mentors provide guidance, motivation and emotional support.

A mentor’s advice is far more general and long-term. Different mentors within an organisation will focus on different things, depending on the learning needs of their mentee. 

2. Line Manager vs Mentor: Asking Questions.

Line managers generally answer questions

If someone on their team is stuck, they will answer their question and show them how to do it.    

They will be focused on ensuring that their people have the right skill or skills to carry out the tasks allocated to them.

By contrast, mentors tend to ask questions

If a mentee is stuck, they will generally ask questions to help the mentee figure out the answer.

They focus on the long-term, and so can take a different approach to problem-solving and learning.

Mentors will usually focus more on things like broad personal development or workplace interpersonal skills, both of which take longer to develop and will vary from individual to individual as we each have our own style.

3. Line Manager vs Mentor: Work Relationships.

Line managers and their team have a relationship that is formally established by the policies of the organisation that they work for. 

A line manager’s relationship with a team member is restricted to those areas mandated by their employer or required to meet their employer’s requirements.  

Mentors and mentees have a much less structured relationship. 

The way that the relationship is structured will vary from relationship to relationship. 

LineManager and Mentor Cartoon 2


4. Line manager vs Mentor: Authority And Guiding Figures.

Line managers manage their team to deliver key performance indicators for their employer. 

Generally, these will be relatively short-term. Line managers do not work with long timescales, and so they will be directive towards team members. 

Line managers will generally tell their team what to do. Their feedback will help team members improve their performance on specific tasks in the short term.

Mentors longer-term and more holistic goals mean that they guide mentees rather than tell mentees.

Mentors have open, ongoing conversations with mentees and will often look to achieve change over several years.  

5. Line manager vs Mentor: dealing with the measurable and unmeasurable. 

Line managers tend to deal with the measurable. By focusing on the measurable, line managers may find their team members trying to hide their mistakes because they do not want to receive critical or negative feedback. 

Mentors usually deal with issues that you can’t formally measure. 

A mentor will have a good sense of the progress that their mentee is making, but usually wouldn’t be able to measure if they wanted to. 

Mentor-mentee relationships depend on open and direct communication

Often, the purpose of the relationship is to help the mentee discuss their flaws and address them, so judging a mentee would damage the relationship and limit progress. 

3 Similarities Between A Line Manager And A Mentor

Let’s look at the fundamental similarities of the roles.

1. Character Building

Mentors and line managers both support a person’s development in one way or another. They have different time scales and objectives, but both are interested in developing the individuals that they are working with.

2. Importance of Trust 

Both relationships work best when there is good personal rapport and trust between both parties. Rapport and trust are beneficial when mentors and line managers are working with an individual facing a difficult decision. 

3. One-to-One Relationship 

Both of these relationships are one-on-one connections, usually. Both mentors and line managers will tend to communicate one-to-one, especially on complex issues.

If you are looking to move into either of these roles – we strongly recommend you look into our guide on decision making at this is the cornerstone of a good leader!


Both mentors and line managers help people grow and develop. 

However, the background and time scales of the relationship vary substantially between a line manager and a mentor. 

This difference in approach means that the issues dealt with and how those issues are dealt with usually varies dramatically between the two roles.

Make sure you understand the difference to get the most out of each relationship.

Image Credits:  Freepik, Pexels, Sora Shimazaki

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About Ben Richardson

Ben is a director of Acuity Training which he has been running for over 10 years.

He is a Natural Sciences graduate from the University of Cambridge and a qualified accountant with the ICAEW.

He previously worked as a venture capitalist and banker and so had extensive experience with Excel from building financial models before moving to learn SQL, Microsoft Power BI and other technologies more recently.