The Face of Leadership - The Art And Science Of Leading Your People
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The Face of Leadership – The Art And Science Of Leading Your People

The role of the modern day leader i s both an art and a science.

The science of leadership is that we need to manage results and coach people to continually improve their skill set. The art of leadership is about mentoring relationships, with high trust, while being friendly and professional with your team rather than being a friend. We know that leadership is a privilege, with the goal being to engage your people to reach their full potential, while achieving results. It can however, be challenging to know when to actually manage, coach, mentor, or indeed, to be their friend. One of the features of leadership today is that leaders play a multi-faceted role, providing an individualised approach to all members in your team. At times, the roles can become blended and blurred. This can make the rules of engagement complex and sometimes confusing. So let’s gain clarity around when to switch roles as a leader by decoding the different approaches and then look at practical ways to be a great manager, coach, mentor and friend.

Decoding Manager, Coach, Mentor and Friend

A person who has been given the position of authority. A manager’s key role is to get results and to ensure your people and your systems are operating at their optimal level, within your area of responsibility.

Key Word = Results

A person who teaches and trains people in a specific skill set while identifying skill gaps and giving instructions. A coach works with people to ensure that they are competent in their Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).

Key Word = Skills


An experienced and trusted advisor who has earned respect. Someone who guides, counsels and shares wisdom and experience to achieve longer term personal and professional goals.

Key Word = Advisor


A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. In the workplace context, friendships are often formed when we create something together or are working side-by-side toward a common goal. At Proteus we have a mantra around friendships within the workplace and that is: “friendships at work should be seen as a bonus – not a mandatory requirement.”

Key Word = Bonus

The ‘How To’ of Managing, Coaching, Mentoring and Friendships

Now that we have clarity around the different roles, let’s look at some practical ways of how to be a manager, coach, mentor and friend. This will guide your decision of when to role shift.

How to Manage for Results

Successful managers give their staff clarity on what they are being measured on to achieve results. The famous statement “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” is a powerful reminder to create a scoreboard for your team.

So set your team members up for success by having real clarity about their Key Result Areas (KRA’s), with measurable results. Note that this  is a change from KPI’s with the focus on results not the busyness of performance.

By having clear KRA’s you can create a scoreboard to help measure progress and success. Your scoreboard should be transparent and displayed publicly through dashboards, charts, noticeboards, etc. This will help to ensure that you have weekly, monthly and annual targets, where you can celebrate the growth and achievements of individuals and team members.

How to Coach for Skills

As a manager, you can create great relationships and a culture of trust by having ‘one conversation at a time’. If you add to this a practical coaching approach to develop people’s skills, you will build a highly competent team.

The following COACH model developed at Proteus will help you to be a more effective coach:


Have clarity by identifying the skill gap or an area within their position description that they specifically need to work on and improve.


Create the space and opportunity for them to learn the skills required in how to become competent.


Decide on the best call to action either through a one-on-one demonstration with yourself or a buddy, and if required, have them attend a training program.


Make time to follow-up to confirm that they have the new skill set to meet their competency standard for the role, now and into the future. Celebrate their recent success and growth.


Finally, ask them to teach, help and coach other team members on their new skills. Remember the motto: “the best way to learn is to teach!”

How to Mentor to build great Relationships

Being a mentor is about helping your ‘Mentee’ to reach their potential as a person, as a future leader and a valued member of the team. Mentoring is typically a longer-term approach and is more of an art than a science.

The following MENTOR model developed at Proteus will help you to be a powerful mentor that shares wisdom and experiences for the Mentee to achieve agreed goals.


Start the mentoring relationship by ensuring that you have a clear purpose or meaning as to WHY you would want to work together. From this, create a meaningful goal that you can both work on together.


Be bold and share your wisdom and previous experiences. Tell them stories or parables that resonate and are memorable for the future.


Negotiate options to help them move forward toward their goals. As a mentor, it is OK to tell them what you believe is the right course of action.


Allow them to then decide their own course of action and trust that they will learn and grow from their experiences.


Show them how to be open-minded and the benefits of having a curious mindset. Encourage them to be open for new opportunities beyond the obvious to achieve success.


As a mentor you are a trusted advisor and you can play a powerful role in reviewing their growth and journey and be directional with recalibrating them at any stage.

Finally, Friends!

The key point to highlight is that within workplace dynamics, ultimately you are their manager and that the business goals will trump friendship. Put another way, friendships do not need to be jeopardised if you establish upfront, that at times you need to put your management hat on. You can always be professional and friendly without the need to be someone’s friend.

To do this effectively, you need to establish the ground rules early and be confident in putting your ‘positional hat on’ when you disagree, have differing opinions or have to address difficult issues.

For example, you can use the following statements when you are at a stalemate with your staff, who are also your ‘friends’:

  • “As the manager of this project I need to look after all of the key stakeholders, not just the team.”
  • “As your manager I need to address this issue to get it back on track for success.”
  • “As your manager I need to pull rank in this case and back my decision.”
  • “I know you disagree, but as your manager I need to ask if you can accept this and come with us.”

The Proteus approach to friendship in the workplace is to “fight clean, fight early and fight fair.” Remember the Proteus Mantra: “Friendships at work should be seen as a bonus – not a mandatory requirement!” So, we don’t have to like each other as a friend, but we can always be professional when working together.

In conclusion, to be an effective contemporary leader you need to put the effort into mastering the art and science of becoming a great manager, coach and mentor. You need to embrace the fine art of being friendly, but not
to necessarily be their friend. When we decode the difference we remind ourselves to be agile and flex our leadership approach to get results, while enhancing people’s skills and build long-term relationships with a high level of trust, then we can enjoy all of the benefits of great leadership in action.

Des Penny,

Co-CEO Proteus Leadership


Proteus Leadership is one of Australia’s premier leadership training and development companies. Proteus Leadership provides leadership courses and management training to a range of industries and assists organisations to build positive workplace cultures, implement change and Create Great Leaders. Proteus also facilitates a range of world-class management courses, workshops, conferences and events across Australia and beyond with the sole purpose of bringing leaders together to connect and grow.

“Our core purpose is to Create Great Leaders that will in turn build Great companies and develop Great teams.”

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