Leading from behind. What does that mean?
Nelson Mandela, and then Harvard Business School identified this as being on the key qualities defining leadership of the future.
The future is evolving into something that is more innovate and thus more competitive. We see things in front of us and we want to change them, we want to make them better, and need people to buy into our vision. But how do we do that?
We could tell them, and make them follow us.
We could influence them, and suggest they follow us.
We could let them go, guiding from behind so they happen upon the vision themselves.
or a number of other possibilities.
However, leading from behind is primarily for innovators; for people who want to build communities that have a shared purpose.
The tough part about this is getting two things right (according to Harvard Business School), and that is:
First, leaders must ensure their organizations are willing to innovate. This is fundamentally about building community. Some leaders refer to this function as “creating a world to which people want to belong.”
Second, leaders must build the organizational capabilities necessary for engaging in the innovation process. The three essential organizational capabilities are: creative abrasion (the ability to generate ideas through intellectual discourse and debate); creative agility (the ability to test and refine ideas through quick pursuit); and creative resolution (the ability to make decisions in an integrative manner).
Creating community is difficult, and facilitating interaction such that people want to be part of something bigger and contribute their energy and talent to realizing that bigger vision is something that happens through trial and error.
So how can we foster communities with a shared vision? How can we identify people who want to be part of what we're doing? These are the questions that will drive engagement in the future. These are the questions leaders operating from behind must answer.
What kind of leader are you? Does how you lead change depending in the environment you're in? Do you notice yourself leading with a particular style more often?