Glad to see someone who understands “Leading from behind” well.
Some more practical examples in the physical sphere: pallet loaders, container ships (or almost any ships), sledge riders driven by huskies.
You will see the many analogies. That you can lead by only a nudge to the eager team with a lot of self-initiative.”
* Saurabh Bakshi: thanks indeed you examples are helping me in making my case stronger !*
Much like you, when I heard the “lead from behind” the first time, a year ago, I immediately understood it. You saw how good parents lead their children, from a sofa. Just a good question directing their thinking, motivation and the work is done. In metal machining, the worker/student does the job, but the teacher just stands behind him, sometimes tells something to do or not to do, sometimes points a finger or explains how it works. Driving licenses are in many countries issued after a lot of practical training in real traffic by the student who drives the car. The instructor has a copy of his pedals, but no wheel, even. Yet, he directs it and points where to go.
Both leading from behind and leading from the front have their use. You lead from behind eager participants who either have much more time or abilities than you. You lead from the front where micromanagement and your genius is required. (like Apple or WW2 warfare).
Of the latter, general Patten provides a nice example. Someone with no hesitation or shame. When surrounded on four sides, he proclaimed: ‘now we have them where we want them, now they can’t get away from us’, and something about ‘now we don’t have to look for them, we have them here’. Basically, leading from the front is where you show that you are a badass and that your ‘troops’ are possibly even more badass than you. Today, you do that when your company is legally attacked, you get out in the front and let tomatoes be hurled at yourself. You do it while standing still, straight, quiet, dignified. The same as with Patten, you don’t want to fight with someone who doesn’t even flinch when you attack him. That is the way you should always defend your company and employees.
It is a lost art. I’m not saying there are no great leaders anymore, but you only see bad examples everywhere. Winterkorn of VW recently. Learn how not to do it from him. First he plays dead bug, then he “deeply apologizes”. Useless man for the company. The truth is that what the company did was done for the good of the customer (low fuel consumption, etc.) and there could be many engineering decisions that he could publicly defend the company with, to gain some sympathy from THE CUSTOMERS and gaining some trust back from the INVESTORS. Of course, his role would be then to take the flak for his public comments (instead of the company), then he would be ceremoniously humiliated by the company, thrown out, his privileges taken, then face arrest, court, possibly prison, all to boost the image of his company.
He did none of that, he wasn’t a leader, but a coward, not willing to be a leader. You don’t need to be a fanatic to endure this, but you need to be decisive.
P.S. Warren Buffett leads from behind by associating with people and companies who already share his mindset for values and work ethics. He doesn’t need to do any managing after he buys such company.