Most leaders I work with wear too many hats with their team. I'm not talking about the amorphous 'boss,' 'leader,' 'friend,' 'coach' type of hat. I'm talking about real functional hats that should be worn by someone else.

While it often starts off as a matter of necessity (at the early stages of any new venture, you have to wear multiple hats), over time it starts to become problematic.

In particular, the lack of clarity around which role you are speaking from can cause confusion for your team. Are you talking to me as a boss, a peer or merely an interested party?

There are two main reasons I see this happening:

1. Overcompensation for a team member's skill set: I once had a Director of Ops in a Manufacturing company tell me they regularly had to clean up after their Plant Manager because the director didn't believe the manager was doing a good enough job.

Instead of working with the individual who should own the hat to help him develop the skills or experience he needs to do his job effectively, this leader took the approach that he simply couldn't trust his team member to do a good enough job. As a result, the leader felt it was now his responsibility to perform that part of the Plant Manager's role.

2. The Leader's Ego: I've also seen a VP of Sales and Marketing arbitrarily go over the head of her Director of Marketing to meddle in the implementation of a marketing strategy. In this instance, the leader believed that no matter who would fill the position, he'd never be able to wear the hat fully because the leader has some 'secret sauce.' This is almost always untrue and usually borne either from the leader's need for validation or because it's a pet project. Neither reasons justify the inability to give control to someone on your team.

In an ideal world, you would wear just one functional hat and all other roles would be covered by those in your team. It's hard to achieve in practice and so when you find yourself wearing multiple hats here are three things you can do:

1. Vocalize the number of hats you wear and why.

Merely laying out for your team the various hats you believe you wear & why and getting agreement on those can help relieve some of the tension and remove some of the hidden assumptions in your team. It then sets the foundation for you to have ongoing conversations with your team about the hat you are wearing in any particular situation.

2. Be explicit when you're wearing a specific hat and when you've put it down.

Explicitly saying "I'm talking to you from my position as CFO" or "I'm talking to you from my position of VP of IT" immediately provides your team with the context in which to take your contribution. They'll understand that if you're talking to them from a peer-to-peer position you may just be adding to the conversation and if you're talking to them from the position of their boss that you may be being more directive.

3. Agree on who is responsible for delivery.

Let's say you have a hats-based peer-to-peer conversation, agree on a plan of action and then you sign off on it from your leadership position. Your direct report may take your peer-level interaction as an indication that you'll bear some of the load of responsibility to deliver. Whereas you may walk away feeling that you had been clear that it was their job to implement.

Asking the questions "What's the next action?" and "Who is responsible for that?" will go a long way to remove some of the confusion from your wearing multiple hats.