4 Important Roles of a Leader

What are four important roles for a leader?

1 He is a direction-setter

  • The leader must point the way to the future.
  • S/he must be the champion of a particular perspective or image of what is possible, desirable, and intended for the organization.
  • S/he must assist everyone in the community by constantly asking the question, “Where can we make our unique contribution?”
  • The leader must be able to infect others with enthusiasm and commitment to the vision until a critical mass shares the dream. Once that happens, the vision has already become a reality as a motivator of behavior and all that remains is to give the dream tangible form.
  • Though the environment changes, her or his role as direction setter never ceases. He must constantly reassess the vision, refine it, allowing it to evolve and grow.

If we conceive of a future state as desirable, we tend to orient ourselves toward it and to initiate the courses of action necessary to its attainment. - McHale, 1969

A strong sense of direction urges action. The sense of direction shapes the action. The sense of direction allows the value of the action to be assessed (is it getting me nearer to my goals?). The sense of direction allows all judgments and decisions to be made more easily (does this help me toward my goals?) -  DeBono, 1984


2 The leader is a change agent

People resist change. Therefore the effective leader must:

  1. Assist people with understanding the purpose of change.
  2. Convince the people that change will not affect the group adversely (leading people out of their security or comfort zone is not a negative thing).
  3. Relieve them of the feeling that it is being imposed arbitrarily.
  4. Build a group climate that welcomes positive and good change by encouraging mutual caring, trust, open communication, and participation.


3 The leader is a critical decision maker

As a change agent, the leader must know when to act by making critical decisions, using his position to make important choices, while at other times affecting change by influencing the choices others make.

  1. The leader steers the proverbial ship. He has responsibility for choosing the course of direction for the group.
  2. At the same time, s/he must know how to resolve conflict, build an effective team, and establish policy.
  3. S/he is the main spokesman:
  4. S/he is strongly involved in brokering the needs of constituents.
  • He or she must be able to mobilize public opinion and be the chief public relations person for the organization.
  • The leader must be able to articulate the organization’s official viewpoint, and at the same time, listen and take appropriate action based on that feedback.
  • S/he must be the advocate for future need (the future needs represented in the present, especially when current challenges and crises are consuming the attention and energies of the group).


4 The leader is the coach

  1. The leader is a mentor and role model for the people. He demonstrates what is most important for the group.   This often means s/he needs to be visionary, innovative, creative, competent, open to advice, enthusiastic, and committed.
  2. He or she serves other people, not use them. He or she discovers followers who need help and see that they get it.
  3. The leader helps people grow.
  4. S/he challenges, inspires and shows others the way to improve.
  5. And the leader is a learner, teacher, facilitator, and friend.