WNA Blog

Tue 28 Apr 2020

Should You Lead From The Front, Or Behind?

Business Consulting & Coaching
Is your leadership style to lead from the front or from behind? Both styles have merit and limitations, depending on your personality and who you are wishing to lead. This applies to self-leadership too, for you must be able to lead yourself before you can lead others.

Leading from the front, “Charge!”, is the style most often linked with the term “leader”. The leader forges ahead clearing the path for those who follow. The danger is that those who are meant to follow get left behind and lose their way. They don’t have the enthusiasm, motivation and expertise to follow easily, to keep up, so they lose heart, get injured, disengage.  If the leader wasn’t clear and charismatic about sharing her big picture and enrolling people’s emotions in following, then she may glance back to find she is alone. Very few, if any, followed.

On the other hand, your style might be to lead from behind, like trek leaders and bull camels, shepherding your herd ahead, protecting the vulnerable from rear attacks, and ensuring none get left behind.  You can keep an eye on everyone, but if you haven’t given a clear directive on the direction, your creative or egotistical spirits could wander in all directions, and you end up trying to herd cats.

You might lead from behind by default, lacking the confidence to step up and make clear decisions. Battling Imposter syndrome on the inside, you try to please everyone, and the stronger personalities in the team take over, with or without conflict with each other. You may pander to the weaker links in the team, instead of pulling them into line, so the whole team is disadvantaged and may become disillusioned with your leadership.

The ideal is to lead from the front while you establish the big picture, the path forward with its signposts to keep all on track. Your enthusiasm and inclusiveness become infectious, and people are motivated to join you on your path forward. You then step back to the rear, to ensure none are left behind, and to allow creative solution finding for the problems on the path from those ahead. Each works to their own strengths and at their own pace within the agreed parameters. You no longer need to provide all the answers. People have a greater vested interest as they know their opinions and expertise are valued. You step back to the front whenever clarification, re-evaluation or reassurance is needed.

To be a real, let alone great, leader you need to lead yourself first, out of your own insecurities and head trash. You need to have the resilience and courage inside to draw on, in times of drought, flood, famine and attack, to get all safely to your destination. Do the personal and professional development on yourself first, before criticising others for not stepping up and being perfect.

It can be lonely out front or at the back so it’s essential you have non-judgemental support and a safe space to be vulnerable, to share your concerns and receive expert help. Ignoring your own faults just allow them to fester, creating worse scenarios and results. Be brave, ask for expert help like a mindset coach, as needed, and get yourself on track first. Then you can more easily lead others from the front and the back all the way to success.

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