The Many Faces of Leadership
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The Many Faces of Leadership
By Mark Wager
The art of leadership fundamentally breaks down to having the ability to be the person that people need you to be while still staying authentic to yourself. This is difficult as with most people there are some aspects of leadership that are more comfortable than others. I coach a lot of people who are just starting out on their leadership journey and over time you see the differences in them. You see smart driven technical experts who become fully rounded capable leaders and it’s because they realise the many faces that every leader has to have in order to be successful. This article will not give you the kind of depth that can be covered on a coaching session but I just would like to share the different aspects that every leader must display. While a leader will have a natural preference for one of them they are not a complete leader until they are able to wear all the faces of leadership.
“The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by” – Felix Adler
The most recognisable face of leadership is the “hero.” At the start of my training I ask people to think of someone who they would describe as an inspirational leader. The typical names that are repeated back to me are Nelson Mandela, Sir Winston Churchill, some sports stars get a mention along with a smattering of former teachers. When people typically think of leaders what comes to mind are people whose actions have inspired others, even if those actions have resulted in personal sacrifice. A leader needs to be more than someone who ensures work gets done. A leader needs to be able at their very core to have the ability to inspire people, enable people to believe what is impossible is in fact possible.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will succumb in every battle” – Sun Tzu
When I’m coaching aspiring or new leaders I spend the first couple of sessions concentrating on awareness. It’s vital that a leader has an understanding of how people perceive and interact with the world in different ways. Think of a time when two people you know have had a disagreement. Friend A comes to you and tells you what friend B has done, you are shocked and appalled and your symphony sides with friend A that is until friend B tells you their side of the story which bares little resemblance to friend A’s story – so who’s lying? In the vast majority of occasions its neither of them, they believe that their perception of what has happened is the truth. It’s because we all perceive the same situation in many different ways. Learn this understanding and you will become aware of your own personal strengths and weaknesses as well of those in others.
"Don't be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it you can make it so" - Belva Davis
Another face of leadership is the “visionary.” A leader needs to be able to see the future goal which such a clarity that it seems real to their followers. This clarity can only occur when the leader has an undeniable belief that the desired future will come to pass and this can be difficult but I’ve never met a truly successful person who didn’t possess belief in themselves even when others doubted them. As yet I’ve never seen an occasion that belief did not precede evidence.
“All men see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved” – Sun Tzu
The most influential book that I have ever read is "The Art of War" by military general Sun Tzu. The book may have been written over 2,500 years ago and the intent was to supply strategic advice for warfare but it’s lessons go far beyond the battleground and into not only the workplace but in all aspects of our life. The book explores that the fundamentals of a winning strategy is threefold. The first is knowledge; know yourself, the enemy and the terrain. The second is planning. Create a pathway to success, make it detailed and precise but flexible enough so that you may change your journey. The last component is preparation. Knowledge allows you to effectively plan and planning allows you to prepare. The more you prepare the greater is your chance of success.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
I’ve been a Manager for nearly twenty five years now covering a wide range of different industries and in different countries. One thing which was consistent regardless of industry, size or nationality was the amount of miscommunication which lead to failed tasks and conflict. We all know that people receive messages in different ways but the number of leaders that fall into the trap of assuming that their team’s preference for receiving information is the same as theirs is staggering. Anyone with knowledge of psychological preferences and mental functions know that there’s a one in four chance of someone receiving your message in the exact way that you intended. Those odds are not good and just imagine you are communicating with your team each and every single day.
"In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions" - Margaret Wheatly
A leader needs to bring individuals together into a collective unit that will produce something that they couldn’t do as individuals. I’ve spent years involved with teams of all shapes and sizes and I would have to be a complete idiot not to see the common behaviours that all successful teams share. Each and every successful team that I have encountered share the same ability to have open and frank conversations without causing offence. They are able to encourage conflict in such a way that ideas are challenged in order to become stronger, behaviours are kept in check so that a professional environment is maintained and most of all people including the leader receive a lot of constructive feedback so that everyone is constantly improving.
"I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers" - Ralph Nader
The two final faces of leadership are the two which can be often overlooked and can mistakenly be viewed as “nice to have” qualities rather than the essential qualities that they are. I’m talking about the need for a leader to always remain the teacher and the student. Leadership is often mistakenly viewed as the personal domain of the teams leader when in fact the leadership that a successful team needs rests inside every person within that team. Each and every single one of them has to have the leadership skills to step forward whenever the time calls. Not only is being a teacher an essential component of a leader but it can also be one of the most rewarding. When I look back on my career the pride I feel is due most in part because of the people I’ve seen develop and grow both as leaders and as people.
“To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.” – Bruce Lee
A true leader never stops learning and it’s easy to continue to learn because lessons are everywhere. I’m often reminded of the works of legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi who believed that once you saw the way for success in one way you could see it in all things. He believed his skill as a samurai was complemented and improved by his work as an artist and a poet. A leader can learn lessons everywhere that excellence exists so sometimes put down your business magazine and just read something else that you are passionate about. Read as much as you can about whoever is successful in that field and you will be surprised with the number of lessons you can learn.
About the Author:
Mark Wager is a Leadership Coach who specialises in turning good Managers into elite leaders. If you want to prepare for a career as a leader or if you want to give your team a spark then contact Mark using the enquiry form below.
This article is taken from the book The Elite Guide to Leadership. Available at Amazon for on,y $2.99USD
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Posted: Monday 21 July 2014