Manager hats for every successful manager

Have you ever thought about the different managerial roles (the manager hats) that you must learn to wear as a manager?

The 5 manager hats

It can be helpful to separate out the 5 manager hats, so that you can reflect on how and when (and how successfully!) you are wearing each.


This is the core of your role and may be where you feel most comfortable. You’re in control: telling your team what to do and supervising and evaluating performance.

When you’re managing, you are:

It’s a nice, relatively safe place to be (but this role is changing too!).


Just ‘managing’ is no longer enough. Even if you’re a first-line manager, with a small team, you still need to be the leader of that team! We live in times of rapid change: markets, consumers, competitors, technology, all shifting and changing before our eyes. In these times, part of your role is to lead your team through change.

What does it mean to lead? You can read the text books, Google the gurus, you’ll find a lot of different definitions. Here’s one of the best (because it’s most practical):

“Show your team a better future, show them the path, and show them how they can contribute to the journey”

Are you showing your team a better future, showing them the path, and showing them how they can contribute to the journey? If so, you’re wearing this hat very well!

This may be a daunting task, because the future may not be clear to you! Your company strategy may be evolving, the role of your team changing, budgets may be shifting, how your company is using technology is most certainly changing.

How can you show your team a better future when there’s so much change and uncertainty?!

You must distill it all down, simplify it, make sense of it, recognize what you do know and what you don’t know, be future-focused and communicate openly, honestly and positively with your team. That’s your role as a leader.

As a next step in your leadership development, consider how do you want to be remembered as a leader?


The third of the manager hats is that of Mentor. As a mentor you’re developing your team by sharing your skills and experience with them. You’re working with them as an experienced and trusted adviser.

Key aspects of this role:

  • Build a safe and trusted environment for your team
  • Share your knowledge, materials, skills, experience and network with your team
  • Strike the right balance of support and challenge to best support their development (this will vary from team member to team member)

This starts by discussing their career and development plans with each of your team members. Then looking for simple ways in which you can support the development goals of each member within your team. Here’s a list of simple activities that fit within ‘mentoring’ and which contribute to your team’s development (once you’ve understood their development goals):

  1. Consider your network, identify who your team member could usefully talk to and then make the introduction
  2. Share information, and your information sources, to help them build up their awareness of the industry in which you work
  3. Take time to share your advice and insights into how to be successful with your company and industry

More here on the manager as mentor.


Coaching can be one of the most rewarding of the manager hats and the most challenging to master. Coaching is a skill, one which you can nurture and develop across your whole career.

Take a look at coaching skills for managers.


As a manager you represent the organization to your team, and that means advocating for the policies, practices and decisions of the organization. Whether it’s the company strategy, the ‘culture and values’, employment policies, pay rises, bonuses, you represent all of these to your team.

You can’t take a pass and say “You’re right, that policy is rubbish”. You must justify the rationale for the policy across the company, even if you may acknowledge that it’s not perfect for that individual.

Representing and advocating for the organization also gives you a source of strength as a manager. You don’t have to rely on personal influence or authority, your organization has your back. Use the strategy to explain the importance of specific projects, use the values to set expectations around team behaviors, use policy to explain pay rises. As a manager, you strengthen your company and your company gives you strength (strength to justify, influence and persuade, not to demand or command!).

Manager hats in summary

To be successful you need to master 5 roles, 5 ‘manager hats’:

Managing: setting goals, allocating tasks, supervising performance.

Leading: show your team a better future, show them the path, show them how the can contribute to the journey

Mentoring: develop your team by sharing your skills and experience with them

Coaching: develop your team by asking powerful coaching questions, to build awareness and responsibility

Advocating: representing and advocating for the organization: its strategy, culture and values, employment policies, etc.

You also need to be mindful of how you use each role. Ask yourself:

  1. How much time do I spend in each role? Is this the right balance for success?
  2. Which is my strongest role? (Probably where you feel most comfortable)
  3. Which is the role that I should work to develop further?

Explore your managerial roles and learn to wear each hat with confidence!