Leaders and Managers Wear 2 Hats

Episode 113 of the Lead from Anywhere podcast discusses how leaders often have to wear two hats – the leader hat and the manager hat.  In leadership, most leaders also manage. In this episode I share the importance of knowing what role you are in whenever you are engaging with your team, and how you can’t really manage people. I also offer three tips to help you navigate going back and forth between both roles – manager and leader – to be more effective in both.

Leader or Manager – Which Hat are You Wearing?  Listen Now!

Lead People, Manage Work

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I have a really, really important question for every leader reading this right now. Do you know which hat you are wearing? I’ve found that most leaders, just like you and me, lead their people AND manage the work. One of the best ways I’ve found to navigate both roles, to go back and forth, is to always know which hat you are wearing. The leader hat or the manager hat?

One way I remember to do this is a mantra of mine – lead people, manage work. You don’t manage people; you lead them.

If you think about it, you can’t really manage a person. It’s a bit dehumanizing – over time, it will lead you down a path of thinking about people as numbers (or dollars) on paper, and that’s not good for anyone. What you CAN manage is the environment – the tools your team has, the workspace, the resources, and the work they get to do. You can set up their work environment for success.

When it comes to managing, you can manage the what, how, where, and when. But leading – you lead the who. Let me share this personal story to illustrate this better for you.

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My Own Two Hat Story – Leader and Manager Roles

A few years ago, I was leading a team, and one person on this leadership team – we’ll call him Jack. Jack and I would disagree quite frequently. I would ask him to do something one way; he’d do it a different way. I was frustrated, and thought a lot of negative things about Jack. But one day, I asked him directly, “Why won’t you do this the way I’d like it done?”

He basically replied with that he didn’t know why we were doing something the way we were doing it, and his way was more efficient. It hit me in that moment that he didn’t know why we did anything – he needed more insights about culture and the why, not the what and how. So, I separated the work from the person, and put on my leadership hat to discuss the vision and mission with him. The way I was asking him to do that task strongly supported the vision and mission of the organization, even though it was less efficient than the way he wanted to do it.

From then on he understood, and did a lot of things the way I asked him to do them. By taking the time to take my manager hat off and put my leader hat on, I was able to be a culture caretaker for a 30 minute meeting, and move through that challenge.

How to Navigate Both Roles of Leader and Manager

Here are some ideas to help you wear both hats of leader and manager, to navigate both roles.

First, try to separate leadership meetings from management meetings. I understand we’re all pressed for time, and I’m definitely not in favor of meeting just to have meetings. One way to navigate going from leader to manager, or manager to leader, in any meeting, is to use your words.  Say, “I’m taking my manager hat off and putting leader hat on here,” or, “I’m taking off my leader hat and putting on my manager hat.”

I know that sounds a bit cheesy, but it works. Your people will listen and respond differently. YOU will also notice you communicate differently. That takes at most 10 seconds to say, and it’s one of the best ways to navigate this territory.

Second, instead of thinking or saying, “I have to manage my employees, the team,” start saying, “I get to lead my team and manage the great work they do.” This helps you make the mindset shift and really accept that you lead people, but that you can’t manage them.

Finally, one other action you can take has to do with the tools you use at work. Know which tools you use for management, and which tools you use for leadership. For example, tools like project management software or laptops would fall into the management category – it’s the stuff used to get the work done. Tools like assessments, your own professional development trainings, or the mission, vision, culture, and core values documents would all be leadership tools. Know which tools you use for what role will help you define that line between the two, AND it will help ease you into knowing when and what to communicate.

Those 3 tactics can really help you start to think of yourself in both roles, and distinguish between which person – the leader or the manager – needs to show up.

Written by : Julie

Julie Bee is the founder of Lead from Anywhere, founder of BeeSmart Social Media, member of the ForbesWomen Forum, and graduate of Goldman Sachs 10KSB program. In her spare time, she grows trees, paddleboards, cooks with cast iron, and tinkers.

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