The traditional image of the place of the leader, relative to the team, is to be standing far out in front, scanning the horizon, perhaps pointing heroically towards the future.
And while sometimes that is the legitimate place for the leader to be, there are times when that’s the last place the leader should be.
The key is to know when to take up that traditional spot far out on the horizon, and when to be far, far away from there.
Several months ago I was in a meeting room with some 40 or 50 leaders, and I was waiting to connect with the leader of this organization.
Having not met this person before, I was anticipating the moment when he would simply walk to the front of the room to address the delegates. Soon, however, I realized he had been in the room the whole time. He was quietly, and unassumingly, making his way from table to table, introducing himself and building relationships.
He knew that, while there are important times to be out in front, this was a moment where his leadership would be more effectively leveraged standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
For effective leadership, you need to know when to be out front, when to be in the background, and when to come alongside them.
1. Stand AHEAD of the team when taking new territory
When it’s time to inspire a new vision or to chart a new path, it’s time to be out front. Your team needs to see you in that traditional role out on the horizon, pointing the way to a new future.
2. Stand BEHIND the team when they are launching new initiatives.
When the team is pushing forward with new, innovative strategies, they have one question of their leader; “Do you have my back?” Your team needs to know you are behind them.
3. Stand WITH the team when the pressure is on.
In the most intense seasons, your team needs to look over and see you are standing right there with them, helping them carry the heavy end of the log.
So, by all means, when the circumstances call for it, settle into that traditional leadership role out on the horizon.
Just remember, sometimes your most effective leadership will take place far removed from the spotlight. Sometimes your most effective leadership will take place in the shadows of the background.