Master the Skill of Leading from the Back

We often see a leader as the “point person,” but the reality is that leaders very seldom take point and when all goes well, maybe shouldn’t. That is not to say that leadership doesn’t take courage. A great leader must first accept all the responsibilities of the decision, but then must inspire courage in others to act on those decisions. Accepting responsibility is difficult because of the possible consequences and the requirement to step forward to own the consequences when things go wrong. At the point of misstep or failure, the leader quickly and purposefully steps into the point position.

Leadership expert Rich Jones will keynote the NWCUA Marketers’ Conference May 4-5,2017

A true skill of leadership is a person’s ability to empower the team to demonstrate the courage to act and execute on the strategy, to make the ongoing decisions that allow for excellent execution. This courage is transferred to others naturally when the leader’s communication resonates with integrity, transparency, and purpose.

Courage transference also requires allowing imperfection to happen. Expecting 100% perfection at all time is an impossible goal and stifles innovation and appropriate risk-taking. What is not acceptable is a less than satisfactory result. Attaining final success, while allowing imperfection along the way, takes honest communication by all team members about what is going wrong, what is broken, or what mistakes were made. Errors need to be corrected immediately so the damage to the outcome is mitigated. It also requires continual testing and verifying to ensure issues of concern, mistakes, and problems are uncovered as early in the process as possible.

The last element of leadership is the inspiration, getting the right people on the right job, with appropriate deadlines, and keeping them energized to execute expertly. Inspiration is only accomplished with honest feedback, recognition, and correction, in real-time. Honest feedback can be done via email, but face-to-face is more powerful. Over-reliance on electronic communication can undermine a leader’s best intentions. Everyone likes and needs to feel a personal connection to their leader when they are expected to assume the courage to do their job expertly and communicate honestly. The bigger the strategy is, the more critical the personal connection. People, not emails or text messages, inspire employees.

Once a strategy is agreed upon, a leader seldom leads from the front unless they must accept responsibility for errors or failure. When a successful outcome is delivered leaders return to the rear to enjoy the glow of success enjoyed by the team.

Editor’s note: “Leading2Leadership; A Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence” is available from See Rich in person at the Marketers Conference May 4-5. Registration is open online.


Posted in Leadership, Marketing & Communications.