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  • Maria Muir

5 roles of today’s leader and their behaviours

There are lots of different hats that we wear as leaders and roles that we need to play. The trick is to match our behaviours to suit. To do this, unlearning and relearning may be required.

Based on my experience, there are 5 roles that we need to play - the Strategist, the Navigator, the Collaborator, the Coach, and the Motivator. We will explore each one in this blog.

The strategist roles and behaviours

The Strategist is one of the roles that I see many leaders struggle with. As many leaders have grown up in their careers and have been promoted for being awesome at the doing, it is hard to switch gears to focus on 'the strategy'. Setting time aside to ‘do strategy’ is seen as a have-to rather than a want-to, and as a result, often gets deprioritised because its not the right time or some other urgent thing has come up.

“My default is being operational and reactive. I’ve been successful in my career to date based on my reliability and ability to analyse lots of data to make decisions. I am being pushed out of my comfort zone to be strategic.”

Often, these individuals thrive in the day-to-day, they love fire-fighting issues, and focus on short term gains. These are not necessarily bad things to be doing. However, it is a challenge when there isn't anyone providing clarity on the 'what' and 'why', balancing short vs. long term, and making deliberate decisions to place strategic bets to grow and improve. This is what the organisation needs you to do in your role.

The navigator roles and behaviours

The most successful leaders I have worked with have been able to 'find the path'. This path includes in the market, within their own organisation, through ambiguity, and being able to identify the superpowers in their teams. Today, the challenge that leaders face is being able to work out what signals to listen and respond to, and to determine what data to track and measure. Often, 'finding the path' means 'creating a new path'. Being able to influence others is a helpful skill. Using an emergent mindset and an experimentation approach can help.

“At first, it feels like you are working within a lack of structure and that you don’t have control. I’ve needed to sense and respond, trust the team, and make decisions with just enough information. Once I realised this, it becomes clear that there is nothing further from the truth – there is structure and control, yet in a different way.”

The collaborator roles and behaviours

The leaders that continue to inspire and do great things are the ones that work well with others and share freely. They are the ones that move past information is power for the select few to radical transparency. They are the ones that value diverse thinking and perspectives. This means that they are curious and seek input from others, especially those that are not 'like them.' From my personal experience, these are the leaders that I enjoy working with the most. An advantage that can be gained, that is often missed, is the 'outside in' view. It is easy to get caught up in the internal workings of your own organisation and not look up and out. What are other industries doing? What can you learn from others? What can you shamelessly copy and tailor to suit your context?

The coach roles and behaviours

One of the biggest changes experienced by leaders is the shift to being a coach most-of-the-time when interacting with their teams. This means stepping away from the 'how' and trusting the team.

“I was surprised how much what I did day-to-day changed with my teams. Before, I would spend most of my time answering questions and solving their problems. Now, I am the one asking the questions and helping the teams to solve their own problems.”

For those that I have worked with, to this day, this remains one of the biggest realisations that leaders have when they change how they lead.

The motivator roles and behaviours

Change is hard. Change is messy. It is hard pushing stuff uphill. It is hard not knowing the answer. Leaders, at all levels, need to help guide and support others. Leaders need to inspire, encourage through praise, and have the courage to go first. Leaders need to motivate through vulnerability and take accountability.

“Creating the right environment for my teams to deliver and supporting them along the way is just as important as delivering on top line results.”

As Simon Sinek says, leaders need to be optimistic. It can be lonely at the top so finding ways to continue to smile is important.

These are the roles of today's leader: Strategist – Navigator – Collaborator – Coach – Motivator.

This blog was written by Maria Muir, Asia-Pacific Sooner Safer Happier co-founder and partner.

Learning resources:

If you found this article useful, you might be interested in additional Sooner Safer Happier learning resources to enable you to lead with these behaviours:


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