The Many Roles of a Leader

Often, new team leaders are just handed the reins … with very little direction or training. It’s exciting to be noticed and given this responsibility … you jump into the task enthusiastically … but soon you find yourself feeling frustrated and uncertain when the team doesn’t immediately follow your lead.

Know this. Management takes many different skills and role. Take the time to understand the subtle elements of your new leadership responsibilities. Your role on the team will evolve as the team progresses through and between its different stages: From director in the beginning, to educator and coach in the middle stages, to a delegator once your team is working together in the Established Performer stage. Throughout, you maintain your role as facilitator, counselor and motivator.

Leader as Director

  • Help the team discover its common purpose, and get team members started in the right direction
  • Find creative ways to gain buy-in to important team objectives and goals
  • Take an authoritative, directive approach
  • Use SMART ways to get them to adopt a team mindset

manager as coachLeader as Educator

  • Explore the team’s roles and priorities
  • Teach them how to play off one another’s strengths and limitations
  • Provide members with training on elements of a team and teambuilding, conflict resolution, and problem solving

Leader as Coach

  • Provide the resources and time needed to get the job done to agreed-upon standards
  • Help them develop discipline
  • Remediate or step in as necessary
  • Give constructive feedback
  • Praise and show gratitude
  • Encourage them to take appropriate risks

Leader as Motivator

  • Create a motivating environment
  • Communicate the value and worth of everything they do
  • Get the team involved in worthwhile teambuilding activities
  • Try to eliminate any de-motivating factors that exist on the team

Leader as Counselor + Facilitator

  • Guide the team through meetings and efforts, letting them take on more responsibility for leadership as they show readiness
  • Ask open-ended questions to get them thinking on the right track
  • Avoid close-ended questions whenever possible
  • Provide support and resources when needed or requested
  • manager delegatingOffer clarification and verification whenever needed
  • Let them come up with their own roles and goals whenever possible
  • When it comes to solutions, guide—don’t push

Leader as Delegator

  • At this point, your team is ready to take off and virtually manage itself for the most part
  • Trust your team members to come to you when they need more direction or help
  • Be ready to step in and shift to a different style if the team begins to lose ground (perhaps going back a stage). If new team members are added, or if there are unresolved conflicts, handle things quickly.


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