When we think about leaders, most of us invariably think of a strong charismatic character walking in front – leading the way and showing the rest of the team where to go. In my mind, this leader would possess certain traits or qualities such as wisdom, courage, honesty and integrity. A spot of intuition and a positive attitude would round it off nicely! People want to follow this guy (or girl) because they trust him and believes that he will know what is best for the group.
But what if the leader was to walk at the back of the group? From that vantage point he is able to keep an eye on his flock. Its sounds Biblical, doesn’t it? Intentionally so. In my mind, this is how a true leader feels about his people – family and colleagues alike! When you are leading from behind, you are able to assess the interaction of your flock with each other and with the outside world to understand their needs. This enables you to find ways of meeting those needs – creating an environment of growth and further development – a nurturing environment. Sometimes it will be physical needs – tools needed to get the job done. Sometimes it may be a spiritual need or an emotional need requiring a serious sit-down or just a leisurely discussion over a cup of coffee or a tall beer. Needs can be intertwined sometimes, requiring wisdom and a deep understanding of the situation. The important thing is to know your people. Really know them; their hopes, dreams and fears.
Sometimes a leader needs to move out of the way to let real growth happen.
Leading from behind is not about being subservient or submissive. It’s about spotting people’s talents, nurturing them and pushing them forward into the spotlight so they can shine. It’s about helping them reach their full potential. It’s about giving your flock the opportunity to test their wings and fly. Yes, they may fall – they have to for them to fully master the art of flying. You need to equip them, encourage them and be there to catch them if you see they’re going down – but you have to give them a chance to fall – at least for a while. Chances are they’ll turn out better at flying than you! And if they do, you have been the best leader of the kind that leads from behind!