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To Get Ahead Lead From Behind

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

 Here’s an idea to help you lead your team more effectively with less effort. Reading time: 2:34.

         Relax, dear reader. Take off your shoes and socks.  Sit back and put your bare foot up on your desk or on the dash board the next time you’re a passenger in a vehicle. Then focus on your big toe. Now concentrate on your four other toes.

        And ponder this caption that John Long posed to his Lumpy Gravy comic strip readers as they looked at the exact picture you are looking at right now: your big toe and four other toes all in a row on your bare foot. The caption read:

     “What the big toe thinks about: I don’t know if I’m at the front of the line or the back.”

       Leaders know. The big toe is at the back.

      The most effective leaders I have known lead from the rear.  In fact in his autobiography, Nelson Mandela equates the behavior of a shepherd with the actions of a great leader.

    The shepherd stays behind the flock  “letting the most nimble” sheep  go out ahead ” whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

        Indeed, leading from behind is  critical especially in spearheading innovative behavior, observes Nancy Hill, writing in the Harvard Business Review, 

   “If you want your team to produce something truly original, you don’t know where you’re going, almost by definition. The traditional leadership model just doesn’t work,” Hill writes.  That’s why  Hill says it” doesn’t make much sense to say that the leader’s job is to set the course and mobilize people to follow them there.”

Leaders Most Effective When Followers Think They Did It

     Leading from behind doesn’t mean abrogating your leadership responsibilities, Hill adds.  After all, the shepherd still makes sure that the flock stays together. He uses his staff to nudge and prod if the flock strays too far off course.  As Mandela says: “You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

    But then when the rocky seas calm, the leader steps back–much like a Rear Admiral, who can complement what the Admiral sees in the lead with a more comprehensive view of the fleet. That’s why Lao Tzu , the Chinese philosopher observed that a leader is most effective when the followers think they achieved something themselves –if not BY themselves–with you, the leader behind them in more ways than one.

 Today’s ImproveMINT

 Lead from the rear to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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