Nine Roles for Great Leadership
Nancy Kaur
12 May 2021

Many years ago, I facilitated workshops called, Life Experience Counts.  The objective for the workshops were to motivate and encourage people (mainly women) to identify domestic responsibilities and activities then align them to workplace tasks. 

The course was designed for those who had been unemployed for a long time and had found it difficult to re-enter the workforce.  These workshops were positive and inspirational spaces.  Fortunately, we had many participants who had their confidence restored and applied for jobs and ultimately turning their lives around.  It was rewarding to be there as a cheerleader and watch the optimistic progression of these individuals. 

Thinking back to this time, I have recently pondered about the roles for great leadership.  In this article I have identified nine roles.  However, I am certain that there are many more roles?  Let’s explore?

Architect.  I see the architect role as the visionary who sets the mission for the team.  This role must be founded on the agreed values of the organisation.  The architect must set the direction in a very clear and concise manner.

Planner. The planner is about being articulate and mindful for the short term, medium term, and long-term goals for the team. It is also essential that these goals align with the strategic direction of the organisation.

Executor. The executor makes things happen.  They consider the risks and are innovative. I would also like to think that they have a dash of disruptor in their execution. Obviously, they are open to fresh ideas and are willing to explore new ways of working.

Teacher. The teacher can be a mentor or coach.  This role does not come easily to all leaders.  If that is the case, then they need to parachute a specialist into the team or even ensure that team members can seek out their own mentor or coach.

a woman conductor conducts a stage of musicians in dim blue light - conduct the symphony of your leadership career

Conductor.  I like this role as it inspires the lyrical part of a leaders’ professional toolbox. The conductor role inspires possibilities and the concert of human effort. Of course, these prospects need to be proposed in realistic terms.  Well, sometimes?

A group of people helping each other and talking in chairs - steward yourself in your leadership role

Steward. Mahatma Gandhi in 1869 said, ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’  Steward encourages us to serve others before self.

A woman hand hold out a drawn on lightbulb - representing innovative thinking in careers in 2021 and beyond

Innovator. The innovator enables innovation. They continually ask the question, ‘but what if?’  Predicts in terms of ‘thinking outside the box’.  Actually, in some circumstances it is better to just throw away the box and purely strive toward being an entrepreneur.

Expert Career Roles - a Woman Looks into a book sitting on top of a pile of books in a library

Expert. The expert understands people, business content to weave successful culture results.  I am not suggesting that we look at the ‘expert’ through an egotistical lens. Instead, we need to consider our credibility in the role.  Being an expert is being ‘a professional’.  This means having the capability: skills, knowledge, and expertise to effectively perform the role and yet ensure that we are inclusive and respectful of colleagues and partners.

Roles you can really think in - an accomplished thinker holds her classes to her lips and gazes to the left - in deep thought

Thinker. The thinker must assess, analyse, and think critically. I call these three phases of the thinker role as, mindfulness.  When a leader is in the thinker role they may reassess, reanalyse, and rethink?  These phases offer a continuous improvement solution. 

Finally, perhaps the ‘thinker’ role should come first? Which brings me to affirm that these roles are not sequential.  Great leaders do not tick off these roles on an invisible list.  Instead, great leaders weave these roles (and quite possibly many other roles) into their professional tapestry each day?


As I mentioned at the beginning, there are many more roles that leaders capture and demonstrate each day. It is important to remember however, that before we can become a great leader we must know and grow ourselves. 

As Jack Welch reminds us, ‘Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.  When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.’

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