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Paula Leach

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Why forward-thinking leaders need to adopt different vantage points

Leaders need to start capitalising on the unique positions that they find themselves in.

Leaders and leadership can mean many things to many people, with most pointing to specific character and personality traits as indicators of good or bad leadership.

However, an area that is frequently overlooked is the actual physical positions that leaders take up, and how these unique vantage points can play a major role in a person’s leadership journey.

Defining the role of a leader

At a very basic level, a leader’s role is to bring about a desired outcome. On a day-to-day basis, this could be ensuring goods and services are received/shipped, making sure that staff are providing adequate customer service, or supporting staff with any burnout or wellbeing concerns.

On a larger scale, a leader may be responsible for overseeing the implementation of mass infrastructural changes, or heading up a long-term, multi-million pound project to a strict deadline.

In any of the above examples, if we simplify what the leader actually does, they are both providing clarity, direction and decisions, as well as providing space and inspiring others to be creative and collaborate together. These two areas of focus enable the group to achieve their shared endeavour.

With great power…

Leaders focusing on ensuring there is clarity and space will create effective shifts and impact. However, the leader has a position which effectively gives them the ‘keys to the castle’.

The leader has a position which effectively gives them the ‘keys to the castle’.

They have the opportunity to observe, learn, develop perspective and understanding, and adapt their leadership focus and approach by ensuring that they are making the most of their different vantage points.

Vantage points

The dictionary definition of a vantage point is a place from which you can see a lot of things.

In an organisational context, taking different perspectives enables the leader to be informed, aware, and to refine their approach. Every leader has five main vantage points to access:

1. In amongst

The leader is seeing things up close and is right alongside the people participating in the tasks that represent the work that needs to be done.

Often described as ‘back to the floor’ this is an opportunity for leaders not only to participate in the delivery work of the organisation or team, but also to build understanding and learn whether the direction they have set is being actioned on the ground.

This vantage point also offers a unique opportunity to discuss what they can see and whether others around them see things the same way, which enables them to refine their communication approach.

2. To the side and around

The leader is seeing things up close to the work that needs to be done but is slightly removed to the side and is fully observant rather than doing. In this position there is no specific interaction with those completing the tasks and activities.

Popularised many years ago, the concept of management by walking about is an example of this vantage point. With less direct interaction, the leader has the opportunity to observe the efficiency of activities, whether or not communication and hand-offs work effectively, and how new approaches may be being adopted.

3. From high above

The leader is away from the specific tasks and activities of the work that needs to be done and is taking a vantage point that looks from high above to see the team’s activity and dynamics holistically.

This is the typical vantage point of a leader, having information such as data or attending meetings where information is shared about how teams and activities are delivering together.

Uniquely, here the leader has access to a perspective which at the working level cannot be seen; however, it is important that when leveraging this perspective, the leader can bring observations and experiences from the two previous vantage points in order to ensure decisions being made are practical and the reality of implementation is taken into account.

4. From high out and beyond

As in the previous vantage point – from high above – the leader is away from the specific tasks and activities of the work that needs to be done. In this instance they are taking a vantage point that ensures they are gathering observations, learning and information from wider teams, competitors, industry etc.

This vantage point is very much about gaining an external view and gathering new innovative thinking, testing the market and maintaining professional curiosity.

This learning can be shared with the team to provide context and to develop and justify changes and improvements. It is also a highly satisfying and strategic perspective to explore to leaders to ensure that they are building strategic influence.

5. Inside

Often, we may undervalue intuition and experience in favour of hard facts and data. However, there are two key aspects to a leader ensuring that they create space for inner reflection.

Firstly, intuition is a hugely valuable asset. Allowing ourselves permission to test the logical data against how we feel, ensures that we consider the human perspective which can include emotional responses and wider experiences that we may have had – helping us to develop more effective communication approaches.

Secondly, ensuring that we create sufficient space for reflective time ensures that we are thoughtful and calm about our decision-making, and enable ourselves as leaders to process our emotions and feelings so that we can channel or manage these and be truly intentional about how we communicate and inspire others.

Stepping out of your comfort zone

As leaders we often may complete personality or leadership psychometrics which enable us to understand ourselves and to understand our preferences. As humans we all skew naturally to certain behaviours and interpretations.

Exploring the full range of vantage points enables us to be even better at creating clear direction and creating the right space for others to thrive.

The same can be true of our positioning in the organisation. We may have certain preferences when it comes to the time and energy we spend in different vantage points, and our responsibility is to challenge ourselves to ensure we are leveraging all these opportunities to bring the widest possible perspective to our leadership.

Exploring the full range of vantage points enables us to be even better at creating clear direction and creating the right space for others to thrive and take us from a to b.

Did you enjoy this topic? Read 'Why we need ehtical leaders'.

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