Are You An Alpha or Beta Leader?

Are You An Alpha or Beta Leader?

Are You an Alpha or Beta Leader?

By Mark Wager

As a Leadership Coach I work with companies to help make teams more effective. Usually a company contacts me to work with each of their Managers individually, typically meeting with them on a monthly or six weekly basis working through their specific leadership challenges, whether it’s difficult team members, difficult clients or even difficult bosses. During my many years of doing this with a range of teams and Managers from different countries and various industries I would have to be an idiot not to see what is required for teams to go from good to great. There are clear similarities that all successful teams share regardless of their industry.

Every team is different, every industry has their own challenges. When I work with teams from Government departments they have unique challenges because the business drivers are different from those in the private sector. When I work with charities and non-profits they have unique challenges because of having volunteers and the lack of financial resources. When I work with sports teams they usually have a very narrow demographic range within a team which are usually the same gender and the same age range which brings a series of unique challenges. Some teams have members with low skill requirements which means team members can be replaced easily yet other teams have high performers who are so skilled that it’s almost impossible  to replace them which brings different power dynamics and unique challenges. 

Every team is different and is in some way unique but at the end of the day all teams consist of people and when people are involved there are specific things that work that turns a collection of individuals into a highly effective team. In this article I will share with you the most important aspect of teamwork and that is Leadership. 

Leadership 

The most important quality of every successful teams is leadership. If you are reading this then you will already have a good knowledge of leadership so I won’t waste your time going over the basics but just for clarification there is a big difference between management and leadership. Management is the responsibility and control over people and resources in order to achieve an objective yet Leadership is the ability to influence, motivate and inspire people to achieve an objective. Management and leadership are very different, management is a position yet leadership is an attitude and successful teams don’t just have one Leader they have several leaders. 

There is the alpha leader and then below that leader are the Beta leaders. The Alpha Leader is the senior most employee, usually the CEO, the Alpha inspires the Beta leaders. The Beta leaders are the most influential people within the organisation. They are not always the middle managers but are the most respected and influential staff members.  It’s these Beta leaders that then inspires the wider team. So if for example you are a leader of a team of 1,000 people it would be infective to go out and try to influence all 1,000 people instead it’s more effective to influence the Beta leaders who then influences everyone else. This is more effective because people are more influenced by people who they have a closer connection with and this is why Beta leaders are so important.

This is how ideas spread in society. Today nearly everyone has a smart phone, yet ten maybe twenty years ago only a small percentage of people had them and most people had the old flip phones not everyone was inspired by the first adverts but were later on influenced to get a smartphone by other people who already had smart phones. This is called the law of adoption of innovation which shows how people react to a new idea and this law shows that there’s a tipping point usually around 18-23% when there’s enough people who have adopted an idea that everyone else also adopts the same idea.

You will see the same thing at the Christmas party. When it comes time to dance not everyone goes on the dance floor at once, a small group goes first which leads to more people dancing and then more until you get a tipping point and suddenly everyone is on the dance floor. As human beings we are naturally inclined to avoid discomfort and risk so as a general rule the majority of people don’t want to be first with a new idea because there is risk with going first and they don’t want to be last because they there is risk with being last which is why people follow the lead of others who have followed the first leader. It’s then safe enough to follow and not too late in order to miss out on what is good.

If you want to improve the effectiveness of your team then you need to improve the quality of your leadership. First start with the Alpha leader and then the Beta leaders, do this and success will follow.

Posted: Monday 15 January 2018


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