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The three hats: a practical example.


For those of you not familiar with my 'three hats' way of explaining our role as 'the boss', a short summary:


As a 'boss' (or any other term describing someone responsible for a team), we have three roles; Command, Management and Leadership. It can be useful to think of these as the 'three hats' we must wear at different times.


Command is the 'power' we have by virtue of our position

Management is the 'science'; allocating resources and other practical needs associated with getting a task done

Leadership is the 'art'; essentially anything to do with how we make our team 'feel'


We can illustrate of these roles like a venn diagram. As individuals, we generally feel more comfortable within one particular role, but to be effective, must deliberately move into others at certain times.


So...allow me to illustrate with an example from my role as an airline captain...


I arrive at work and meet the crew. Leadership hat on...I may not have met ANY of these 12 individuals before, and they will be watching my every move, making both subconscious and conscious assessments of me. First impressions are HUGE, and I carefully cultivate the environment to get the best out of the team. Most of this 'cultivation' is aimed at breaking down the substantial cultural and communication barriers which naturally exist between various sub-groups within the crew. See my blog on 'Talking to Aussies vs Talking to Koreans' for a more detailed discussion on this very real leadership issue!


I sign for the jet. Command hat on...by virtue of my position, I must accept responsibility for the physical asset, and the safe conduct of the flight. If this jet has a serious incident or accident, I will be the one ultimately held responsible.


We arrive on the flight deck. Management hat on. I play my part in the many checklists and procedures involved in setting up the jet. Some tasks like the external walk around aren't allocated yet, so as a crew we discuss and allocate those tasks. I set timelines for work/rest schedules.


A mechanic arrives on the flight deck and advises me of a technical problem. Leadership hat on. I want to get the best out of the mechanic, so I assume the worst; his boss is an a**hole, he is at the end of a 10 hour shift, and hasn't had a toilet break for two hours. I make him feel relaxed, and empower him to help us solve the issue, treating him with respect and dignity.


The technical issue will result in a lengthy delay. Leadership hat on. I gather the other pilots together and am careful to ask open, 'thinking' language questions about what this delay will mean to us. (See previous blog on 'Are we meeting or briefing?') I do the same with the senior cabin crew. We discuss options for the passengers; do we board them, or hold them in the terminal.


We implement our plan for handling the delay. Management hat on. I allocate tasks, adjust timelines and re-set objectives. Together, we eventually solve the technical problem and depart an hour late.


Etc, etc, etc...you get the idea.


I naturally sit in the 'leadership' circle. It's where I'm most comfortable, and what I enjoy the most. At times, I need to move into the other roles. Sometimes this happens naturally, and at others I must consciously decide to do it. This is maybe the 'art' with which we associate leadership, vice leadership itself.



Command is assumed by your position, and it's virtually impossible to operate without it.


Management is required. Tasks simply won't get done if you don't allocate resources and set objectives.


Leadership is usually neglected. It is frequently confused with management and command, and if not, is lumped as a group of non-essential 'soft skills'.


But leadership is the ONLY role which engages your team. It is the ONLY role which will save your company turnover costs, and it is the ONLY role which creates an environment which cultivates innovation and creativity.



Which role do you naturally reside in? Is there a role which you need to spend more time in?




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