What do you think you’re doing? This isn’t the Valley of Death, you know!

Leadership in Action? The Relief of the Light Brigade; Richard Caton Woodville, 1897; National Army Museum

Lessons in Leadership #4

One of the things that no-one tells you when you start your leadership journey for the first time is how damn versatile you need to be…

You probably grew up thinking that “real” leaders always led from the front. Hearing film stars shouting “follow me, men!” as they charged into battle on those classic war films that seemed to be the only thing on Sunday afternoon TV when you were a child.

But as you grow into your first sort-of-a-boss role, you find that leading from the front is a) not all it’s cracked up to be, and b) not always appropriate.

In fact the longer you do this thing called leadership, the more you realise that the position you lead from should be very much defined by the situation and context you find yourself in.

Leadership Position 1: Lead from the front.

This is especially important when you’re asking your team to do something new that will take them – and possibly you – out of your collective comfort zone.

You need to show them the way, and demonstrate that you’re not asking them to do something that you would not be prepared to do yourself.

This position is particularly important in when your business is going through a transitional period such as rapid growth, and the need to add a lot of people to your team really quickly. Other contextual situations when leading from the front is the appropriate position are:

  • During any investment or funding round
  • When you going through a merger or acquisition
  • If the business is having to pivot
  • Where you are facing financial or economic uncertainty.

Key to remember at this point is that step-change growth and transformation never come from a place of comfort…

Position 2: Lead from the side

This is particularly important if you are running either a problem-solving session or brainstorming new product or service ideas. Stepping back to the side, and taking the “ringmaster” role (combining facilitator, observer and coach), shows your team that you’re all in this together. At the same time, you are also giving individuals the confidence and opportunity to explore new ways of doing things or demonstrate their own leadership skills.

I can guarantee that some of the best solutions and new product ideas will surface when you give (particularly) customer-facing members of staff free rein to chip in.

Position 3: Lead from behind.

We’ve all had bosses who take all the credit for work that the team actually did.

And if you’re really unlucky, you will have come across the leader who not only steals your ideas, but undermines your position in the team because your skills or experience unwittingly triggers their imposter syndrome.

Don’t be that boss.

Like him or loathe him, one thing Jack Welch really got right was his ability to find and use talent. One of his best-known quotes should resonate with any leader aspiring to transform their growth curve.”

I was never the smartest guy in the room. From the first person I hired, I was never the smartest guy in the room.”

Jack Welch

Acknowledge your team’s successes. Praise your staff for their achievements – and make sure the acknowledgement is public. That the praise is to their faces, as well as to other people. Talk to them about their progress – and how their skills can best be developed to benefit not just the business, but them as individuals.

Don’t forget that 8 of the 12 Gallup Employee Engagement questions are directly related to this aspect of leadership, and there is a direct causal link between engaged employees, productivity, and profits…

Whether the situation demands that you need to lead from the front, from the side or from behind, remember that you always, always, should lead by example.

Never ask someone else to do something you wouldn’t do yourself, and remember that the behaviour you model is the behaviour your team will deliver…

Here endeth the lesson for today…

But seriously, if this resonates with you – and you’d like to explore the leadership stances in more detail in relation to where your business is right now and the challenges you are facing, book a 30 minute Strategy Session in my diary: https://bit.ly/talktotheleaderwhisperer

Alternatively, check out the ways I can help you move from being a good leader, to a great one…




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Call Us