The Leadership Octagon

The Leadership Octagon


The defining factor that determines whether a business succeeds or not is the quality of leadership within that business which is the core primary driving force. If you want a world class business then you need to have world class leadership, the type of leadership that empowers and inspires people to achieve more than they ever thought possible.

This kind of leadership can be developed within individuals. There have been many occasions when I've coached good leaders who turned into world class leaders. It's a difficult journey since world class leadership has different aspects and people find some aspects more comfortable than others. In total there are eight sides to world class leadership and the key is to be aware of all these sides so you know where you need to focus your development and when you have mastered all eight sides you will become a world class leader. This model of world class leadership is what I call the leadership octagon.

The Hero
“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 side of leadership is the "hero" When people typically think of leaders what comes to mind are people whose actions have inspired others through their actions 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 personal qualities such as honesty, integrity, courage and humility, the type of qualities that people value so highly that they want to follow you.

The Philosopher
“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

In order to lead people you have to know the complexities of human behaviour so you know how people react to situations and why they react the way they do as well as understanding your own behaviour and using this knowledge to succeed. People are very unique and have very different influences during their life with different upbringings and different values, different circles of friends and different life experiences. All of these factors create a unique perspective of the world. The challenge is that people tend to assume that other people have the same perspective as they do. This doesn't happen in the real world resulting in mis communication every day. Leaders need to understand the world and the different personalities people have and the various interactions that takes place among them.

The Visionary
"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 side of leadership is the “visionary.” A leader needs to be able to see the future goal with 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.

The Strategist
“All men see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved” – Sun Tzu

You can inspire people to act but action is ineffective without a comprehensive plan to guide people to success. A leader needs to have the ability to develop and implement strategy, tactics and behaviours and ensure they are all clearly linked together. The link needs to be so clear so that people can see how their day to day actions impact the overall strategy therefore increasing the significance of each task and creating a connection that the individuals can have with the organisation.

The Communicator
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

This side is adjacent to the philosopher side. The most brutal tool that a leader possesses is the ability to communicate. Once you know about human behaviour then you can learn how to adapt your communication in order to ensure that people interpret your message in the precise way that you intended it to be received. This is challenging as you just remain authentic to your values and belief hence the "hero" otherwise no communication despite how technically proficient will be effective enough to inspire people to action.

The Builder
"In organisations, 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 quality which I call "a low tolerance threshold." This means they can have open and frank conversations about how the team and individuals can improve without causing unnecessary conflict.

The Teacher
"I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers" - Ralph Nader

The two final sides 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.

The Student
“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 don't just read this article, read anything you can about someone who you admire who has achieved excellence because in their journey you will find lessons that will help you with yours.

About the Author:

My name is Mark Wager and I'm a Leadership Coach based in New Zealand. I delivers Leadership development programmes across the Asia Pacific region. I've had two books published, I've written articles for several magazines such as Lifestyle for Men, M2 Magazine, NZ Business, NZ Management as well as a weekly business column in the Fiji Sun Newspaper. I was listed by Evan Carmichael as one of the top 100 Leadership experts in the world.

If you want a leadership development programme that impacts your profitability, or if you want to receive world class coaching or just in need of a key note speaker contact me via the enquiry form below

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Posted: Monday 11 January 2016

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