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Five hats of effective leaders: teacher, mentor, coach, supervisor and sponsor


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

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