A Leader’s Hats; The 5 Main Hats All Leaders Must Wear… and Wear Well!

a leader's hats, thumbnail with a pile of cowboy hats in greyscale

Leadership within organizations can be an odd experience… I’ve found leadership positions to be given for odd reasons, accepted for logical reasons, and at times overwhelming due to the number of hats a manager, supervisor, leader must wear. Not in all companies, but many… if you sell a million dollars worth of product; you’ll eventually be offered the Sales Manager Position. This tends to lead to companies losing their best Sales Person, gaining the worst leader, and increasing team dysfunction. The Employee tends to accept the position as most people can’t fathom telling their family they’re considering turning down less money, more status, or perceived job security… even though they may not eagerly desire the new role.

From the hesitant new leader to the super-eager leaders… no one’s fully prepared for the multitude of hats we must wear throughout the day, from situation to situation, and from employee to employee! Yes, leadership is about vision, results, setting and maintaining high standards and expectations, and more… being able to wear “The Five Hats” to best marry what you want to do and give… with what the person receiving your effort needs most from you right now allows you to best impact, influence, and protect your People! So, what are the most common “Hats”?

The Therapist Hat!

Let’s start with a hat I’m very familiar with… In my employee days, I worked as a Mental Health Therapist for 19 years before venturing on my own; becoming a professional speaker, author, and Leadership Trainer. As a leader, you will eventually be approached by an employee while you’re walking through the building, at your desk, or early on a virtual call… and out of the blue, they will confide their most crucial current life trauma! This may happen for several reasons; perhaps you’ve worked together for years in various capacities and have that type of relationship, they feel safe with you as you’ve created an amazing environment to work in, perhaps they have to tell SOMEONE or ANYONE; as they can’t focus on their work unless they get it off their heart and out of their head, maybe they’re telling everyone that gets within their 18 inches of personal space. I’ve seen every scenario, addressed most, and have been the one sharing on several occasions to a boss!

Years ago, I noticed an employee consistently hovering outside of my office; we always spoke, but he would not accept my invitation to enter. So, one day I stepped outside of the office doorway to speak with him and within 30 seconds he shared his son had recently passed away from an overdose and his significant other recently left him. As an employee, when I was at lowest point in my life, I remember going to a supervisor to share… not so much looking for advice, but rather a dumping ground to clear head so I could return to doing my job. The point is, when you least expect it… TAG, you’re it. Now what to do?

I am not suggesting you go back to school to take Counseling or Psychology classes… although helpful… YOU ARE NOT A THERAPIST! However, you ARE a human and so are they. As busy as you may be… what they’ve decided to share is extremely important to them, crucial, and critical. Be sure to:

  1. STOP, MAKE TIME, and TAKE TIME to listen and hear them out.
  2. Practice Active Listening: Make eye contact, nod, and paraphrase what they share.
  3. Perhaps it’s best to ask what their plan is moving forward?
  4. How do they best get through the day?
  5. Is there anything they need professionally or from the company they believe could assist?
  6. Thank them for sharing… as you may be the only person on the planet they told and the only one in their life to really listen.

Lastly, please remember you are not a Therapist and not bound to confidentiality, but do have a moral duty to warn and a legal obligation to follow your company’s policy. When it makes sense to keep things to yourself… do so to ensure trust and a culture your people want to work in. However, when the information shared presents a danger to the employee or others… please follow your company policy and offer services to best protect your employees, your team, the organization, and their family!

The Party Hat!

When I share The 5 Types of Leaders… I say a great leader is all FIVE given the person or situation that calls for it. However, we all have a Top 2 that resonates with you we currently are at our core. The 5 Hats are no different. The transition from “The Therapist Hat” to “The Party Planner Hat” can happen in seconds! As soon as you wrap up your conversation with an employee going through the most horrific tragedy you can imagine… you take five steps or log into your next virtual call and you find out it’s the next employee’s birthday, or their daughter just got accepted to Harvard, of they just returned from their honeymoon to Europe and can’t wait to tell you a quick story. You better they that “Party Hat” on!

The Party Hat is all about being excited for your people, their experiences, accomplishments, and their family’s successes, etc. My youngest son plays quarterback and I often post his games and highlights on social media. It’s really cool… and surprising, when people stop me to give me a compliment about my son, ask how he’s doing, and sometimes to even offer advice or recruiting tips. As good as it feels for me… think of how an employee must feel to be listened to, celebrated, and complemented for something non-work related. What an opportunity to make Work/Life Harmony matter!

The Problem-Solver Hat!

This Hat is two-fold… My BIG Rule as a leader is… “Please accompany your problem with a suggested solution!”. I often share, one of three things will happen:

  1. Your idea is so good, we have to go with it!
  2. We may work to fine-tune it and collaborate; as there may be information an employee may not have.
  3. It may not be the idea’s time; as it doesn’t fit inside the Vision & Vision Factors of the organization, team, or project.

Leaders will build other leaders when sticking to this rule. However, there will be times when the lion must show why they’re the lion… when the leader may need to display why they have that title… and due to a crisis, a deadline, or the need for quick thinking, it’s now your job to put on “The Problem Solver Hat”.

I remember sitting in an office with two fellow coworkers and our boss as we were brainstorming. I’ll never forget her looking away and moving information around in her mind, whispering quiet words to herself, and solving the Rubik’s Cube of problems within minutes! It was the first time I was ever impressed with a boss and I clearly understood why she was in her position. Of course, the team carried out the plan, but watching her or any leader be a leader on the spot is impressive and certainly rallies any team… Be Mindful!

The Protector Hat!

“Protection” is one of my five keywords that define leadership. Leaders must protect their people from their own bad habits, from themselves as leaders… often expecting too much and being ignorant to “The List” of their people, leaders must protect their time, and lastly… there are times when leaders must protect their people from customers, clients, and sometimes from other employees and leaders. In another article, I’ve shared about A Leader’s Mediation between coworkers. My BIGGEST pet peeve is when leaders fail or choose not to protect their employees from rude and abusive customers/clients; choosing revenue over culture!

Too many times I’ve seen this situation… In my final days working in Mental Health facilities, I remember sitting in Intake Meetings and the client adamantly stated they did not wish to enter the program, were not accepting of treatment, and were unwilling to follow the rules. The new leadership allowed client after client to enter (as if there wasn’t a line of other more willing clients in waiting). This neglect eventually led to near-riot situations months later and failed to protect staff and students. While in Sales, I watched customers enter our store… yelling, cursing, in the personal space of female employees, arms flailing… and still being served.

They say the customer is always right… I am not “They”! Sometimes the customer is wrong. Sometimes the customer is right, but how they’re right is not worth the 5-Star Review. As a leader… sometimes… we must be willing to sacrifice that 2-Star Review by protecting our people like a 5-Star Leader! Not every client/customer is for you… and your willingness to protect your people will enhance not only your Leadership & Work/Life Harmony… but also that of your people!

Early on in my Mental Health career, I was on a phone call with a client’s father. He was upset and began to curse at me. I shared that I was happy to listen and help , but would not be able to if he continued cursing at me. I warned, if he continued to curse, I would hang up the phone and he would be able call the school the following day. He continued… so I hung up… and everyone in the office was in shock! I was happy to find out, leadership supported my decision… as I would not have been able to continue working there if they hadn’t.

As a leader, I’ve always trained my team to use my polite, high-energy, positive, and willing tone that echoes the vision and culture of the company. Therefore, if they ever break character to protect themselves or someone else… I know it was for a reason and I will defend their choice and position to the end!

The Sparring Hat!

There will be times as a leader when you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a boxing ring standing in front of Mike Tyson, Lol! It will happen out of the blue as you’re walking in the door to work, simply asking someone how someone’s day is going, while sharing news or change, and BOOM… they explode in frustration, exclaiming their feelings about the topic, the change, the company, the rules, the Boss, YOU, their life, or all of the above!

The Sparring Hat as a leader suggest this particular fight is NOT a real fight, but you’re going to take some hits… and those hits are for the good of the person dishing them out and for the company. The truth is, not every outburst warrants disciplinary action or firing… do you have any idea how may great workers would be out of a job?

The first step is to realize this is out of the norm and not to react to match their emotion-of-the-minute. Perhaps they needed to get it off their chest and they felt safe, consciously or unconsciously, with you. Perhaps the outburst was warranted or they have so many things going on you have no idea about… and this was the final straw! Either way… accept the vent for now; as you can always address how you prefer them to do it in the future. Next, be sure to ask yourself, “What are they right about?”. Finally, allow them time to cool off if necessary and readdress in a timely manner to check-in.

You now know the 5 most common Leadership Hats… you may have one you’re more natural at and your comfortability with certain hats may have changed over time or with different types of employees. The point is, you must be comfortable wearing them all and mindful not to let your “Busy”  beat you. Your people need you… as your “Hats” breed connection… and it never ceases to amaze me how much more people do for you, with you, because of you, and can forgive about your requests and a bit of organizational dysfunction when they have a great connection with you… Be Mindful!

Written by: Andre Young

Ready to enhance Leadership & Work/Life Harmony for your people and organization? Click www.youevolvingnow.com to start customizing a high-energy, interactive, and culture-impacting Training or Speaking Engagement with Andre Young!!!

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