Understanding The Leadership Octagon

Understanding The Leadership Octagon

Understanding The Leadership Octagon 

By Mark Wager

Training someone to become a Leader is very different to training them for any other role. Leadership is unique, not because of its difficulty. There are many jobs that are exceptionally difficult to learn. It's more because of its complexity, people are unique with their own personal traits and preferences and for a Leader to bring people together and to unite them as one cohesive team is incredibly challenging.

To become an effective Leader you can’t just be a master of one skill you have to become a master of several of which there are eight fundamental skills. There are eight sides of Leadership, which are known as the Leadership Octagon. In this weeks article I want to explain to you about these eight sides of Leadership and how by focusing on these different aspects you can become a complete Leader.

The Hero

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou

When people think of what a Leader is they often refer to people who have inspired them, made them feel, like they are capable of more than they previously imaged. This aspect of Leadership is known as “the hero” and is easily the most recognisable. A Leader needs to be more than someone who tells people what to do they have to be able to inspire those around them and the best way to inspire people is Leading by example. Personally demonstrating the qualities you want to see in others, you need to be prepared to speak up for what is right, be the voice for those who don’t believe they have one. This requires courage. This requires you to be a hero.

The Philosopher

Leadership is not bullying and leadership is not aggression. Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good. That you can make the world a better place’- Sheryl Sandberg

Leadership is all about people. A leader is nothing without followers yet people are incredibly complex. What motivates one person doesn’t motivate another. Everyone has their own personal set of values and beliefs which have been shaped by their life experiences. As a Leader you will naturally attract those similar to you and that’s fine and it’s easy to lead those people but a true complete Leader is able to lead everyone. They are able to do so because they understand people, they understand how and why they personally see the world and they are able to comprehend that others will see the world differently. A true leader sees these differences as a strength enabling others to help show them what they don’t see themselves.

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

A Leader needs to be able to build a bridge between what people are currently doing and what people are capable of achieving. In order to achieve this the Leader needs to be a visionary able to see what is possible if people work together even if what is possible hasn’t been achieved previously. A true Leader is not bound by what has come before them. They see what others can’t and understand that belief precedes evidence. Today the iPhone is commonplace yet not long ago while every computer manufacturer was focused on making better computers Steve Jobs at Apple was focused on changing the world. It was his vision, focusing in what was possible and not on what has gone before. That is what helped turn Apple into one of the worlds most successful companies 

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

There are many dreamers in the world yet there are very few leaders. It's because what separates the two is strategy. A dreamer sees what is possible while a Leader has a plan to make that dream a reality. While the strategist is not the most glamorous aspect of Leadership it is without doubt a vital one because nothing worth having can be achieved without a plan of action understanding the steps that need to be taken and the role that everyone plays in order to succeed. It’s Important to remember that the strategist doesn’t focus on the end goal instead they focus on identifying the behaviours that will make the end goal possible because they understand that if you get the small steps right then the longest journey can be reached.

The Communicator

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

True Leaders understand that there’s a big difference between what is said and what is being heard. You may think you are communicating one message only to be surprised later on when different members of the audience walk away with a very different understanding of what was said. In order to become an effective leader you need to be able to adapt your communication to suit the person you are talking to. By way of example there are many ways in which people prefer to receive feedback. Some may prefer direct communication while others may prefer a more holistic approach taking into account the positive aspects of their performance as well as the negative. People are different and true leaders understand that they need to communicate in a way so that the listener understands.

 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 is able to bring together a collection of individuals and turn them into a force that is capable of producing far more than the  efforts of the individual. A true Leader knows that success is all about relationships, bringing people together showing them the interdependences between them, understanding how their actions impact others and vice versa. The Leader provides the team with a common vision, a purpose which is greater than the individual a set of values and a common understanding of how people will work together. It's these different elements that the Leader is able to bring together in order to build an effective team.

The Teacher

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

The role of the Leader is to take people to a level of performance that they never imagined possible. This  requires the Leader to also become a teacher. The word “coaching” which is now commonly used in the business world originated in an article from Oxford University in which it was noted that teachers were spending time with individual students in order to help perform better effectively communicating with them like a coach. If you are not teaching, if you are not coaching then you are not leading. Knowledge like power is meant to be shared. Too often I see leaders hesitant to share information because they feel if they do then they won’t be valuable yet the reality is the opposite. It's the role of the leader to create more leaders and it’s in their success that the leader shines.

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

The last aspect of Leadership is the one that is often overlooked and that is “the student.” The journey of a Leader is one of seeking knowledge and it’s a journey that never ends. The vast majority of my life has been decimated to developing leaders but even today many years after I started, I find myself taking away new lessons whenever I spend time with a new company or a group of new Leaders. The world is constantly changing and as a result you need to be willing to change with it and even anticipate when and where those changes will occur. A true Leader will also be a student preparing to learn just as much as they teach.

About the Author

Mark Wager is a Leadership Coach with over thirty years of managerial experience across a range of industries. A former Broker Sales Manager with a London Finance House and a National Manager for the Ministry of Justice Mark specialises in working with Leaders helping them overcome the barriers, both technical and mental standing between themselves and success.

A strong believer in taking complex leadership & psychological theories and making them accessible to people regardless of their background, education or industry Mark has helped develop Leaders from some of New Zealand’s leading organisations such as Fisher & Paykel, Weta FX, Heartland Bank, NZRL, NZ Netball, NZ Soccer, NZ Basketball, Amnesty Int, Barnardos, Oxfam, Red Cross and many more.

Mark has limited availability for new clients so If you are serious about becoming more successful then contact Mark today.

Posted: Wednesday 29 March 2023

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