Jul 19th, 2015

Lead From Behind

There is a nearly endless body of work on leadership being developed and published over the centuries. Leadership, as a discipline, is probably as old as the time when humans first organized themselves on a larger scale. And yet: For many of us, it is elusive, more art than science. We fumble through, do what we think makes intuitive sense and clean up the messes we leave after the fact.

I, for one, can attest to my inability to truly effectively lead my team when I first started out on this journey. Over the more than two decades I had the honor and privilege to lead teams, I believe I developed a somewhat decent and sane approach to this topic.

Outside of the mechanics of how to organize teams, set up working reporting structures and deploy the tools your team needs to work like a well-oiled machine, I learned that leadership comes down to a very simple principle:

Leadership is not about “leading” (in the literal sense of the word). It’s about painting the vision, building the structures, giving people clear roles and responsibilities and then: Getting out of their way, so they can do what they need to do.

If you spend most of our time “leading” you’re doing it wrong — as you’re standing in front of your people. You need to be behind your folks — showing them true north, empowering them, cheering them on and giving them the support they need. Your role is to remove obstacles and to allow your team to live up to its full potential.

Every single time I did this — my teams went above and beyond of what most people would have thought they are capable of.

Lead from behind.

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