Choose your hat.

Primarily, the article is about hats. In a small business, it’s sometimes difficult to be clear about your role at any given time. But, if you’re both a shareholder and a part of the leadership team – it’s so important to have absolute clarity about which of those roles you’re playing when attending meetings or having conversations with your team. 

So, what do each of your hats mean? 

The shareholder hat

Your job as a founder / shareholderis ultimately to drive stakeholder value in your business. These ambitions usually centre around maximising profit, or perhaps you have a vision to become an amazing place to work or even to ‘do good’. They are horizon gazing missions that define what your teams do. 

The leadership team hat

Your job as part of the leadership team is to be outward facing, directing the company and creating and executing a plan that will deliver stakeholder goals. You are accountable for delivering projects that align with and will satisfy shareholder ambitions. 

Operational hat

This one is rarer, but there are instances whereby  you might be a shareholder, part of the leadership team and part of the operational team – one of my clients is also Head of Creative within their business. In this instance, the same rules apply – be clear on your role at that time, and deliver the plan in alignment to shareholder ambitions accordingly. 

At first glance, these definitions might not seem tremendously different, or indeed problematic if they occasionally blur into one another – but when you’re working both on and in your business – you must identify which hat you are wearing at all times – and hold yourself accountable for that. 

Imagine this… you’re attending a leadership team meeting, but you’re in the room acting as a key shareholder. You’re being directive – perhaps even bullish, driving the agenda on your own terms. In being so, your voice trumps everyone else’s in the room. Not only might your behaviour in the context of this meeting verge on aggressive, but it’s also essential you understand that to effectively be part of the leadership team, you need to be focused on the plan to deliver shareholder value – contributing to the direct, outward action. You must agree to be part of the collaborative effort. Forthright, shareholder views that do not help deliver the action behind the vision are not welcome here. 

How to make sure you define your ‘hat’

Tell people.

Make it your job to tell people which hat you are wearing at any given time. If you’re in a leadership meeting, make sure everyone knows you are there as part of just that. If you’re having a one-to-one meeting who is also on your leadership team – be gracious enough to tell them that you are speaking as either a shareholder, or as part of the LT. Are you talking to them about the ambition of the business, or about how to achieve that ambition? It matters not only for them, but it also helps you to focus on what you need to be saying and delivering – without unhelpfully swerving off course. 

Be clear about your role in the meeting

Be very clear in any meeting you attend the capacity in which you are there, and also be clear about your expertise and accountability during those meetings. 

Agendas matter.

I am a huge advocate for agendas, in fact I dislike meetings that don’t have one. In a leadership team meeting the agenda should be about leadership team activity, NOT shareholder agenda. 

Sidenote (there’s always a sidenote)

Often, though not always, in a small business it is the founder who is most expert or has most expertise in the leadership team. There’s a danger to interpret that every voice in the leadership team holds equal weight, on every matter. This is what I would call democratising leadership, and it rarely brings the best outcomes. You do not need to be entirely diplomatic – focusing on deploying your expertise and experience to advantage the entire team. Equally, you need to recognise others expertise and experience – when they trump your own.   

Final point… don’t be one of those founder/shareholders who floats in with a ‘don’t mind me, I’m just here to listen’… I guarantee your team won’t thank you for it.

You cannot wear two, or even three hats in the same meeting because – both metaphorically and practically – it looks ridiculous. 

I hope this gets you thinking about which hat you’re wearing today. 



Search the whole etc Playbook...

We have 100's of articles to help you with leadership, growth, talent and running a better business.

Agency Founders Surgery - free 1 to 1.

If you have something on your mind, a challenge you’re wrestling with or just want an alternative point of view, I’d be very happy to lend an ear and maybe help you start to unpick the issues.