The Five Hats all Leaders Must Wear With Style

It takes a variety of skills to inspire and impact behavior.

Depending on the situation, you may opt to sport one of these five hats: management, leadership, consulting, mentoring, or coaching.

Your Management Hat

Familiar with the saying, “You lead people and manage systems/processes”? Without carefully crafted systems, leaders often find themselves battling excuses, mishaps, and mistakes. Fortunately, you can stay on track with powerful management strategies, including solid prioritization systems, detailed delegation forms, consistent checklists, crystal-clear standards and expectations, and open feedback processes.

Strut your management hat when you need to:

  • Address mishaps, mistakes, or excuses
  • Delegate more effectively
  • Ensure repetitive activities are followed flawlessly
  • Discover the root cause of an issue or problem

Your Leadership Hat

With your management systems in place, it’s time to switch to your leadership hat and motivate specific action. Powerful leaders are persuasive communicators who inspire others to follow.

Empathetic leaders grow lasting connections by listening to others’ needs, wants, and concerns. That’s a proven-effective path to success.

Wear your leadership hat when the job requires you to: 

  • Take a team through organizational  changes
  • Motivate others to follow a new strategic direction or vision
  • Inspire a team to pull an all-nighter to reach a time-sensitive goal
  • Lead by example

Your Consulting Hat

Sometimes you’re asked to give your expert opinion on a topic or are relied upon to offer solutions/suggestions. That’s the perfect time to put on your consulting hat. A word of caution – don’t confuse the consulting and the coaching hat. “Consult” when you’re asked to provide specific answers. “Coach” when you need to build strength or capacity in someone else in order for them to develop a skill or way of thinking. If you keep giving them answers (consulting), they’ll come back with the same question. If you coach them how to act or think, they’ll learn to resolve issues themselves.

Wear your consulting hat when the job requires you to:

  • Give advice or offer solutions to specific problems, issues, or challenges
  • Others ask for your opinion or expertise
  • You are brought in to offer expertise on a topic

Your Mentoring Hat

A mentor is someone we look up to and who possesses characteristics or skills/talents we admire. Most of us can think of a person whom we’ve considered a mentor. It may be personally or professionally, and it can be an intentional/requested relationship or we may consider someone we’ve never even met a mentor by way of their actions. As a leader, you can opt to put on your mentoring hat in several unique scenarios and with different individuals. It may be to offer someone guidance on a particular topic in which you’re an expert, or to help advice someone who struggles in their role or life.

Wear your mentoring hat when:

  • Your position, personally or professionally, is valuable and offers a unique perspective
  • A less “formal” relationship is appropriate and a person needs inspirational guidance to be/live/work with greater joy or satisfaction

Your Coaching Hat

Not all managers are natural-born coaches. Great leaders don’t necessarily possess the ability to help others maximize talents and minimize shortcomings. That said, it’s essential to switch to your coach hat in order to develop a team, retain top talent, and execute challenging initiatives.

Skills that fall under the brim of the coach hat: listening between the lines; challenging others to consider different sides of an issue; holding people accountable for reaching individual and organizational goals; supporting employees’ difficult or challenging steps; and asking powerful questions to help raise self-awareness.

Put on your coach hat when called to: 

  • Address recurring performance issues
  • Inspire and coach someone to grow in their current role
  • Help others reflect and gain perspective on issues or opportunities
  • Resolve challenging issues or problems that require deeper conversations and action steps


It takes time to master the skills and strategies embodied by each hat. Sharpen your hat skills or risk increased stress, decreased productivity, and recurring people issues. Ask yourself:

  • Which hat do I feel most comfortable wearing?
  • Which hat do I tend to avoid?
  • What action steps can I take to increase my comfort level with each hat?

Each hat has its own unique purpose. The more flexible you become in switching hats, the more effective you will be as a leader/ manager.

© 2022 Leadership Cadence, LLC. All rights reserved. May not be duplicated in any form without prior written consent. 
No links or recommendations are affiliate and are the authors personal recommendations only.