You don’t have to be a supervisor to be a leader. But whether you lead because it’s in your job description, or you’re leading by example, you’ll find yourself wearing several different hats as your responsibilities shift throughout each day. No matter your title, any leadership role you take will require you to wear one of these hats (and most, likely, more than one): trainer, facilitator, coach, consultant and mentor. Sometimes, these roles overlap; other times, there is more defined distinctions.
It’s useful to understand the different purposes and focus of these roles so you can be the best possible partner to your direct report, employee student, client or mentee. It also provides clues about what kind of feedback you need from them. So, as you look at these leadership hats, ask yourself which you find yourself wearing most often.
Some trainers are positioned explicitly as educators. Other times, employee leaders are called on for their expertise and experience with a specific topic to give employees more information about that topic. And of course, employees count on their bosses to teach them what they need to know to get the job done well. No matter which form The Trainer’s role takes, their purpose is to develop skills that shift behavior and results. When you find yourself wearing this hat, focus on following the energy of the participants while making sure the content is delivered.
Trainers are often called upon to facilitate discussions about the topic being studied. But you can see The Facilitator in action in other environments – perhaps most notably as a project manager. In both examples, the name of the game is collaboration, and The Facilitator should keep the group energized and focused on desired outcomes.
This hat comes with a whistle! Well, perhaps not literally, but a company leader acting as a coach does have a similar responsibility to their athletic counterpart: helping others “win” by modeling desired behavior. What constitutes a win depends on both the individual’s and the company’s goals, but The Coach needs to focus on their team players’ energy levels and find out what their biggest motivators are to help them reach their potential.
Mentors are rarely formally assigned, but they are, nonetheless, critical. They may share information about their own career paths, as well as provide guidance, motivation, emotional support and role modeling. Those whose lives The Mentor touches may ask for help with exploring careers, setting goals, developing contacts and identifying resources.
The Consultant advises others how to reach goals by providing concrete strategies, sample milestones and tips for maintaining momentum. They focus on specific details that will give whoever they’re consulting the best chance of success.
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