Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Five hats of effective leaders: teacher, mentor, coach, supervisor and sponsor
  1. Richard C Winters1,
  2. Teresa M Chan2,
  3. Bradley E Barth3
  1. 1 Department of Emergency Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  2. 2 Division of Education & Innovation, Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3 Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Richard C Winters, Department of Emergency Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA; winters.richard{at}


Background/aim Teaching, mentoring, coaching, supervising and sponsoring are often conflated in the literature. In this reflection, we clarify the distinctions, the benefits and the drawbacks of each approach. We describe a conceptual model for effective leadership conversations where leaders dynamically and deliberately ‘wear the hats’ of teacher, mentor, coach, supervisor and/or sponsor during a single conversation.

Methods As three experienced physician leaders and educators, we collaborated to write this reflection on how leaders may deliberately alter their approach during dynamic conversations with colleagues. Each of us brings our own perspective and lens.

Results We articulate how each of the ‘five hats’ of teacher, mentor, coach, supervisor and sponsor may help or hinder effectiveness. We discuss how a leader may ‘switch’ hats to engage, support and develop colleagues across an ever-expanding range of contexts and settings. We demonstrate how a leader might ‘wear the five hats’ during conversations about career advancement and burn-out.

Conclusion Effective leaders teach, mentor, coach, supervise and sponsor during conversations with colleagues. These leaders employ a deliberate, dynamic and adaptive approach to better serve the needs of their colleagues at the moment.

  • medical leadership
  • mentoring
  • coaching
  • organisational effectiveness
  • development

Data availability statement

No data are available.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Twitter @drrwinters, @TChanMD

  • Contributors RCW conceived the idea for the article. RCW, TMC and BEB contributed to the design and writing of the article. RCW submitted the article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.