Leading From Behind

So much has been in the news with the latest catchphrase ‘Leading From Behind’. The Occupy Wall Street movement has been cited as a prime example of the lead from behind philosophy, as has Germany’s underpinning of the erratic Euro.

So what the heck is leading from behind and why should I care?

As a leadership style it is beginning to stretch forth from the lands of psychology, philosophy and religion where it has been thriving for 20 centuries. In the most simple of terms, it reverses the role of the leader and the follower. Born of the distrust of the status quo, a grass roots movement grows as the mainstream solutions become more and more distasteful. Instead of creating the movement, the ‘leader’ recognizes what is happening organically and adopts the philosophy. The role of the leader is now to give the movement legitimacy, credibility and publicity.

Leading from behind is both populist and the language of change; its roots based in an emotional response. The growth needs to be tended like a garden, and the gardener must use his experience and intellect. A good gardener prunes, waters and feeds carefully, allowing the rose to bloom with a beauty of its own. A poor gardener will leave the bush to choke the remainder of the garden and cut himself on the thorns.

It was leadership from behind that forced the signing of the Magna Carta, sparked Martin Luther’s split from the Catholic church, ignited the American and French Revolutions, and started the civil rights movement. These world altering events occur when people of like mind and high moral standards lead from behind. Lesser men used the unrest as a catalyst for personal power plays.

From a business perspective, it gives an opportunity to tap into the innovations and culture of our workforce, allowing creative intelligent people the freedom to be dissatisfied with the status quo and spurring them on to revolutionize their industry and the world.

Ed Wildeman

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