Strong leadership…from behind

With any conversation about leadership, I like to get one big misconception out of way right up front.

In most people, the idea of “strong leadership” conjures up images of someone at the front of the pack leading the charge with trumpets blaring and the troops following up behind.

That may be exciting in old war movies, but that approach doesn’t necessarily work in today’s organisations.

The people I work with are smart! They have their own ideas. They work in an ultra-connected environment and are constantly pounded by a huge array of different influences. They are flexible, informed, and need to be empowered.

So perhaps the old view of leadership isn’t as relevant today.

True leadership is getting the best out of people.

To achieve that, you have to let people express themselves.

This simply won’t happen if you stand in front of people and get in their way.

You need to get out of their way.

Perhaps the concept is not so new….the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Zu said: “To lead people, walk behind them.”

I see this as meaning that you need to encourage everyone to be a leader.

You have to give each individual a sense of empowerment and responsibility, and allow them the freedom to contribute their best to the team.

To do that you’re actually not leading the charge from the front, you’re leading from behind.

Lao Tzu also said: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”


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