19 February 2023 |

The 6 heads of leadership


You fail as a leader when you assume what your team needed yesterday is what they needed today.

It’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about prioritizing consistent 1:1s with your team. Understanding what people need requires a consistent investment of your time and attention. To help your team be at their best, you need to learn to know what they need from you at the moment.

This will likely sound exhausting, but I’m giving you tools and tips to help simplify it all. 

The 6 heads of leadership:

  1. Guide
  2. Friend
  3. Coach
  4. Mentor
  5. Manager
  6. Counselor

If you choose to accept, your mission is to learn which ONE of these heads you need to be in a particular situation to help your team be at their best.

Each role is important in its own way, and understanding when and how to play each can help leaders build strong relationships with their team members and promote growth and development within the organization.

These are tools for you to keep in your toolbox. 

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” – Abraham Maslow

Let’s break it down.


As a Guide, you will set the direction for the team and help them navigate the path to success. They provide clarity on goals and objectives and give guidance on how to achieve them.

When your team seems lost or uncertain, it may be time to help provide clear next steps and remind them how far they have come. This role is especially important as you work with new team members or when your organization is navigating changes.

When there is potential for people to get lost, be the light and show them the map.

As a guide, you will need to learn to build rapport, communicate effectively, and tell engaging stories to help your ideas become memorable.

Actions items to help you be the guide:

  • Set clear goals and expectations for the team
  • Be sure all plans include checkpoints to track progress and course correct as needed
  • Communicating your company’s strategic plan to the team and ensuring everyone understands their role


Leaders who act as friends build strong relationships with their team members based on mutual trust and respect. They create a comfortable and positive work environment and encourage collaboration and open communication. 

Sometimes the people on your team need to know they have someone at work with similar interests and are invested in them as a person. This doesn’t mean you have to be everyone’s best friend, but it does mean you should try to be a friend when your teammate needs one.

But don’t fake it. If you aren’t interested in being a friend, it’s better to skip this one than try to pretend you are interested.

A few benefits of your team having a friend at work:

  1. Having a best friend at work can increase job satisfaction, productivity, and creativity.
  2. Workplace friendships can reduce burnout and boost productivity.
  3. Workplace friendships can improve the overall business.

Action items to help you be the friend:

  • Look for shared interests (games, sports, books, movies, etc.)
  • Encouraging team members to socialize and bond outside of work (but make this optional)
  • Being approachable and available to team members who need support or advice, even when it is not business related


Mentors are leaders who share their experience and knowledge with their team members to help them grow and develop. They provide guidance and advice on career development and professional growth based on their own personal experiences.

In Joseph Cambell’s The Heroes Journey, he explains how the path to becoming a hero is only possible with the help of mentors. This means that as a leader, you have to accept that you are not the hero. Your role is to help the people around you become the heroes in your team’s story.

Actions items to help you be the mentor:

  • Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each team member
  • Creating personal development plans for each team member
  • Providing regular feedback and coaching to help team members improve their skills


Leaders who act as coaches focus on helping their team members improve their performance and achieve their goals. While mentors focus on teaching by sharing their own experiences, coaches focus on asking effective questions to help their team see that they already have everything they need to be successful.

Learning to ask effective questions is a superpower.

When people come up with their own answers and solutions, they are far more likely to take action and follow through. This process also helps them become more resourceful in the future, less reliant on outside help, and more confident in their own inner strength to tackle any issues they may face.

Actions items to help you become the coach:

  • Resist the urge to immediately provide solutions when your team brings you a problem
  • Be curious instead of critical.
  • Ask great questions–this LinkedIn post should help you get started.


Counselors provide emotional support and guidance to team members who may be experiencing personal or professional challenges. 

The challenge here is to be available to support your team while knowing your limits and protecting your own boundaries. Unless you’ve studied human psychology extensively, your role will not be to help your team work through their personal trauma. 

Focus on the small things you can do to help ensure your team feels safe and supported on your team.

Actions items when you become the Counselor:

  • When your team member talks with you about an issue they are dealing with, be direct in asking how they would like your support–sometimes, they just might be looking to vent
  • Create a safe and confidential environment for team members to share their concerns without the risk of retaliation
  • Connecting team members with resources, such as employee assistance programs, to help them work through personal challenges 


Finally, leaders who act as managers are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the team. They are accountable for ensuring teams execute and ensuring that team members have the resources and support they need to be successful.

Managers need to be able to delegate tasks with specific timelines, be willing to provide radical candor to help their team grow and hold everyone (including themselves) accountable to a consistently high level of expectation.

Leaders lead the people, and managers manage things. (You need to be able to do both.)

Actions items for you as the manager:

  • Creating and managing budgets for the team
  • Ensuring that team members have the necessary resources and tools to do their jobs
  • Monitoring team performance while continuously coaching and developing the people on your team

What would you add to this list?