Balancing Multiple Roles as a Leader

Industry Matters Newsletter

Leadership is an essential skill for career advancement and involves a complicated juggling act between strategist, subject matter expert, coach, change agent and visionary.  In the course, “Balancing Multiple Roles as a Leader,” Sarah Canaday defines each of these smaller roles to help build a successful leadership strategy.  

Not all managers are leaders, however, leaders often take on the role of manager.  In this role, leaders work to define the overall framework for accomplishing the team’s goals.  A leader helps each employee understand how their contributions support these goals and holds the team accountable for accomplishing them.  A good leader clearly defines success and maintains an understanding of the processes and approaches to the objectives. 

Many leaders, especially with technical backgrounds, are comfortable with the role of subject matter expert.  Their intelligence and credibility elevated them to a position of leadership but to maintain effectiveness, leaders need to break out of the expert persona and develop skills to work with and through others.  Leaders must be comfortable with not knowing everything and intentionally push out of the comfort zone to learn new skills.  Pursuing expertise in interpersonal skills like communication, active listening and conflict resolution can help reframe the role of subject matter expert within leadership. 

Effective leaders also act as coaches and motivators.  Both of these roles require a deliberate shift into a supportive mindset.  Successful leaders focus on the growth of each individual and attempt to understand their goals for career progression even outside of the team.  A solid connection with team members helps to tailor motivational communication at an individual level. 

Lastly, the role of change agent can be pivotal to success as a leader.  Organizations today are constantly changing, creating the need for a leader who can adapt quickly and inspire others to the same.  Leading others through changes such as restructuring after a merger, adopting new technology, or adjusting operations for consumer demands requires targeted communication delivered with enthusiasm.  In this role, it is important to think from the employee perspective and provide explanations to help people understand the purpose behind the change and what is at stake. 

To effectively balance all of the roles of a successful leader, first think about where you are in your career and what your team needs.  Depending on current goals and priorities, more time might need to be spent in a managerial role or as a subject matter expert.  Remember that it will take time to learn how to shift between the different roles so be patient and flexible during the learning process.