LEADERSHIP – WHEN TO LEAD FROM BEHIND OR FROM THE FRONT

The single key to success in life is understanding leadership. What makes a great leader, makes a great parent. What makes a great leader makes a great friend. It’s all connected. However, it’s all a matter of scale. What you can do for one person, or a family, you cannot do for 50 or 10,000. Giving your son or daughter a hug when they feel bad is awesome leadership, but you can’t cuddle everyone in your team. It’s all a matter of scale.

Introvert or extrovert, male or female, sporty or unhealthy, leadership crosses every divide in human categorisation and truly has no care about it. Some of the greatest world leaders have been, and are, not physically powerful at all, nor highly educated in schools of business and psychology. Therefore it is safe to say, what corporate training means when they say the word leadership is not actually leadership. Some of the greatest leaders of sports teams are not the best players. Some of the greatest political leaders are not very likeable. Some of the parents who are held as extremely good family leaders achieved their status by no being strict on their children, spoiling them and in some ways ruining the child. In nature, the leader is the King or Queen who simply fights off opposition, survival of the fittest. In business it can be the person with the most cunning and cruel approach and they rarely interact face to face with the entire company.. But you, you probably lead in a bubble where someone else decided how much to pay them, what culture values they conform with (and you) what modes are acceptable (front or bad leadership) and what outcomes of a blend of “like you” and “like the company” and “have fun” and “get the bonus” and “be liked” you have to juggle. That’s not leadership, it’s something else. Let me explain….

In Nepal, for over 55 trips, people paid me to lead them into dangerous places. One minute I would be leading from behind, the next from the front. But it was always leadership and they paid me for it. The most challenging part was coming back down after we had reached the summit of Gokyo Re or Base Camp. Why?

BECAUSE ON THE WAY DOWN:

  1. There was nothing to fear.
  2. There was no longer any danger (of altitude sickness)
  3. They knew the way
  4. They grouped with people they liked (group think)
  5. They were all 100% motivated to get home (mission complete)
  6. They had enough
  7. They wanted a nice bed and great food
  8. They felt powerful meeting others going up (giving advice)
  9. They’d achieved something rewarding
  10. They knew plan b and could implement it.

I think it’s pretty important to know that the same people who loved my leadership from the front going up, demanded it from behind going down.

So, from this it would seem that leadership is conditional on circumstances.

Lead from the Front When:

  1. There is allot of uncertainty about the future
  2. People are keen to mitigate danger, risk or fear
  3. Things are rapidly changing
  4. People lack experience (guessing)
  5. People have asked you, pay you, to lead
  6. You’ve done it before and they haven’t (empowered)

Lead from behind when:

  1. People are engaged in the destination
  2. People want to go to the result
  3. Risk of failure is small
  4. Fear is negligible
  5. They have some experience
  6. They collaborate with others
  7. They have a clear mandate to implement plan b
  8. The feedback is positive

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