A Leader’s Many Hats


And all your future lies beneath your hat

–John Oldham

Above is a photo of one of my prized possessions… a hat that belonged to my late grandfather, Vernon Davis. He was a lifelong farmer who for many years, worked his land with Draft horses in southeast Iowa. I always remember him wearing this style of hat, switching between straw and felt depending on the occasion.

Although this is the hat he physically wore, he figuratively had many other hats he wore as different situations arose on the farm. He often donned the hats of mechanic, blacksmith, veterinarian, and often the hat of forecasting the weather, just to name a few. With as many hats required way back then, the number of hats today’s farmers must wear has increased exponentially.

Like today’s farmers, current-day business leaders must wear different hats to successfully lead in today’s business environment.

By searching online we can find lots of great references to the many hats worn by a leader. Most emphasize that a leader must understand and become skilled in each of the hats required in their role. Important? Absolutely! Easy? Not so much!

I ardently subscribe to the proverb that “Experience is the best teacher.” And in “my experience” it takes the experiences that only come with time in a leadership role before you are nimble in recognizing and switching your leadership hats. Be patient. Be reflective. Learn from them.

But I’m also a big believer that success is where preparation and opportunity meet. If I was coaching you, I’d encourage you to think deeply about the different hats you wear in your role as a leader. Be extremely honest in reflecting on how well you do with each. Then search for ways you can develop. Are there people in your orbit who can help you prepare? A leader? A peer? How about a mentor or coach? Someone in human resources? Then identify some realistic action items and integrate them into your leadership development plan.

By being proactive in your preparation, and by reflecting and learning from your experiences, you’ll soon be known as a leader who can shift and adjust to a variety of situations… at the drop of a hat!

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