Kerrie Mullins-Gunst

Leadership Role Playing

by Kerrie Mullins-Gunst

Few of us are born to lead. Yet most of us will need to lead some group or organization, at some time. Leadership is a role most of us will need to play.

Frequently, leadership is a role that we discover we need to assume when we agree to do some other task or job.

We may need to lead a group, team, department, or even a whole organization. We may lead a family, club, association or a whole community.

Our leadership role may be formally sanctioned or we may have no actual authority, just a group of followers.

The context in which we lead doesn't matter. When we assume a leadership role we have a part to play in shaping the future, or at least some part of it, and some important principles apply.

First, the leadership role is different to management. Often good leaders are also good managers. But the leadership role is not the same as the management role, even if the same person plays them both, and the two should not be confused.

The management role is based on authority while leadership is built on relationships. Where the management role involves responsibility for command and control, the leadership role relies on influence and inspiration.

The primary leadership role includes establishing the strategic vision, values and direction setting while the management role concentrates on planning, resource allocation and budget to deliver the vision.

Both leadership and management are important, but at different times and in different situations. The best leaders know when to assume which role - when to manage and when to lead - and they are comfortable moving in and out of the leadership role as required.

Second, leadership skills can be learnt. You do not need to learn these skills the hard way, all on your own. Once you develop your leadership skills, assuming any leadership role is much easier, and more effective. Attend a leadership seminar or read some leadership books. There are many available.

And finally, just as all good actors make the roles they play their own, you must play your leadership role in a way that is uniquely you. I believe Leadership Integrity is about being the best you can be and bringing who you are to what you do. This is the most important role you can ever play.

Quick Tips

  • Mature teams and organizations share the leadership role according to who will be best in any particular situation or circumstances.
  • If you view leadership as a role you can happily and productively continue contributing to a team in other ways when someone else takes over the leadership role from you.
  • If you view leadership as part of your identity or personal power base, rather than as a role you sometimes assume, you run the risk of clinging to leadership beyond your capacity to contribute value. Don't let this happen to you.

Taking Action on Leadership Roles

  • Make a list of all the roles that you play in each of the different areas of your life.
  • Highlight the five roles that are most important to you.
  • Are the five roles you have highlighted the roles where you consistently invest most of your time?
  • Are there things you need to do more of?
  • Are there things you need to do less of?
  • What actions will you take?

Reprinted with permission. © Copyright Kerrie Mullins-Gunst

About the Author
Kerrie Mullins-Gunst

Kerrie Mullins-Gunst is CEO of KMG Consulting and is an expert in how you can lead, manage and mentor your people. She is one of Australia's leading female business speakers. For free leadership tips, tools and resources visit or call on 61-3-9859 3924.

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