There are two kinds of leadership; leading from the front and leading from the back. Let me define the two.
Leading from the front is the most often seen because it is the obvious demonstration of leadership. Leading from the front is essential in situations that require a strong vision, direction, or action. It is often seen in athletic locker rooms and when corporate executives are introducing their Strategies for the future or orchestrating a turnaround when boldness and difficult action is called for.
Leading from the back is less obvious but often more effective. It is a science that relies heavily on the EQ, the listening skills, the ability of the leader to enable and empower action versus “demand” it. It also requires the leader to trust the team and then get out of the way.
Leaders that build and sustain high performing teams have learned, usually from experience, the time and place to take the front podium and the time and place, after setting the direction, goal, and timeline, to then step back and let the team do their jobs and win the day. Leading from the back should be a daily habit, leading from the front should be reserved for special times and special places. If we always lead from the front, we do not create a culture of leadership that permeates the organization. Everyone will look to the front for action and decisions. Even the Marine Corps learned that firefight leadership is not a stripe on your shoulder or a bar on the collar, it is inspiring action when and where an action is called for.
Basking in the reflected goal of success is a leader’s proper place.