Leading from the Back

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Leadership is often characterised by the ability to influence, the ability to motivate, to serve and indeed to champion ideas. Is this always true? Does this not say that leadership is then associated been outgoing, dynamic and an effervescent cheerleader? At a recent workshop, I got thinking about leadership and the fact the a lot of think that leaders should be to the front and be the role-model of behaviour, whereas this is not always the case. So what about leading from the ‘Back’ as in, not necessarily being the front runner but still wanting to take on a leadership role but from the back rather than the front.  I am assuming that you want to be known as a good leader. But leadership is not always about leading from the front, so here comes the concepts of leadership from the back!

Leading from the back means that you don’t have to be the official leader of a group. It means you can be part of a team and still have lots of influence by helping the team or group figure out what they’re all about. Leading from the back means asking a really good question at the perfect time and working with those around you to figure out the answer and by that facilitating discussion. As a leader from the back, you don’t always need to know the answer, but you are willing to ask the question. A good question is much more powerful than being the official leader. So really leadership from the back is about using your expertise / knowledge to communicate and engage with others.

Leadership is about moving a project forward and while this can often be seen as behavioural, it is not always that way. Knowledge is such a key element of any project and how this is framed is a such a powerful way of influencing and guiding people. Isn’t that leadership, of course it is and can be referred to as leadership through expertise. It’s about asking a good question. It’s about helping everyone figure out why we’re doing the project in the first place. As an introvert, this can be more of a comfortable position to take on and certainly does not require you to change to be something different

Leading from the back is not necessarily better it’s just different. There are a huge amount of people that want to be the recognised leader but where does that get you? To be recognised in but not in position. Lots of people want to be the official leader. It is a great idea to figure out where you’re most comfortable and lead from that place. And that is not always from the front!

Leading from the back also has the very distinct advantage of that you will more things accomplished and completed. You can be just as effective leading from the back as leading from the front. There is a lot to be said from using your own expertise within a group

and showing how something can be done. This achieves both the leadership attribute as well as the completion of activity attribute. But and there is always a but … will you get the credit that you deserve for this quality … are you going to be considered a doer or a leader?

You may argue that getting credit is not what leadership is about. It is about helping others move forward is what a great leader does but we as human beings always like some credit for what we do?  If your good at what you do, you’ll get plenty of credit.  If others don’t recognise what you’ve done, that is equally fine. We simply have to accept the leading from the back is not everyone’s cup of tea. The important thing is you are moving yourself and your project forward. Leadership should not be about the individual, it should really be about the project, what is needed and ultimately the best way of getting the desired result.

So sit back and enjoy the ride because being at the back is as effective and being at the front!

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