Why The Best Leaders Lead From Behind

Ever start your day looking for lessons in leadership during your morning commute? Neither do I. This morning, my commute started out well enough, although I wasn't making time like I had hoped. I got out of the house okay, but early on I ended up behind an unmarked police car and thus my forward progress was, well, slightly restricted, speed-wise. But he was in the lead, so I followed.

carBy the time I reached the interstate about halfway into my commute and he entered the HOV lane, I breathed a sigh of relief and started thinking about making up some lost time. Before that happened, though, I watched a Civic several lengths ahead of me suddenly swerve out of its lane as a white CRV cut it off. The small car overcorrected, then overcorrected the other way. After a few seconds and a few back-and-forths, the driver had spun the Civic completely around so that it struck the CRV.

The CRV skidded and also fishtailed a bit before it began to roll, eventually coming to rest on its roof. It skidded down the interstate upside-down spreading sparks for a while before righting itself as it left the road and ended up on the embankment.

Both drivers were okay.

What If?

Could I have been any help at all to them had I been in front of the accident?

How about if I had been in the middle of it?

If I had been involved in it myself?

The absolute best place from which to view the wreck, to report on what happened, and from which to render assistance, was my vantage point. Just behind the accident. Just to the rear of the participants.

Lesson For Leaders

It's tempting to want to exert leadership from the front, to be William Wallace leading the charge into the mouth of the enemy. But is that always the wisest vantage point from which to lead?

Sure, there are times when we'll need to be the rallying point, the point of the spear, the voice calling our team to greatness. But those times are relatively few, and mostly crafted by Hollywood.

Most of the time, what's called for is daily leadership. That means studying your team, observing them, watching them. Leading them. Determining the next steps. And sure, a forward scout can point out to you where the potholes in the road are, but even scouts will miss things from time to time. What you'll need then is a leader who can see the bigger picture, and can steer most effectively.

And you can best see the wreckage and the successes if you're behind the team.

Another Small Lesson

Sometimes God puts obstacles in your path for a reason. Embrace them, don't curse them. Just because you don't know why they're there doesn't mean there isn't a purpose.

Your turn: From where do you lead most of the time? Out front, in the thick of things, or from behind? Leave a comment and join the discussion!