Leadership is a subject that has fascinated and challenged me for years. And the older I get the more important I see it as being.
Early in my career leading was more about being ‘the boss’, the one in charge who made the important decisions. The one who kept people in line and things going in the right direction. My view of leadership today is quite different than it was then.
A term I heard several years ago from a friend in Ontario helped me put words to what I was sensing about great leadership. She was describing her son to me as someone who ‘leads from behind’. Those words stayed with me and have become the words that come to mind when I think of great leadership.
‘Leads from behind’ implies an approach to leadership that is other centered and empowering. It is of course concerned with the bottom line and the end result, but it recognizes that the way to achieve the best end result is through engaging and utilizing the wisdom, insights, gifts, talents and skills of others. We may be able to do a lot on our own but we can do far more through an engaged and empowered team.
People are more likely to invest their passion, time and energy in their work if they feel a sense of ownership, engagement and involvement in the whole process, rather than feeling that they have no say and are simply being told where to go and how to get there.
If we want to build a business with a culture where employees look out for the best interests of the company, their customers and each other, we should expect:
- sometimes unwanted, but often valuable, feedback from employees
- rules to be openly and honestly broken on occasion by employees, to meet the needs of our customers, and in the best interest of the company
- employees to act like they own the place, because they feel valuable, empowered and know that what they think, feel and do matters
- to be able to take time off from time to time, without worrying that things will fall apart in our absence!
If you work with a team but feel overwhelmed with responsibility and like you can’t take a day off without everything falling apart, now may be a good time to look at how you are leading your team and whether you are permitting others on the team to step-up and use their wisdom, gifts and talents, time and experience in ways that let them shine and help your business grow and flourish.
Recommended Reading: Patrick Lencioni’s ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.’