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5 reasons why leaders should learn to lead from behind

As Nelson Mandela has shown us, success doesn’t always depend on how well you can lead from the front. By Satyaki Sarkar

Time and again we have been told that good leaders always take charge and lead their team from the front. However, as some of the world’s greatest leaders, including world renowned revolutionary, politician, philanthropist, and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, have shown us, success often also depends on how well a leader can lead from behind. A leader who can lead from the back is capable enough to manage even the most challenging situations remotely, while also promoting a healthy development of his team. So here are five strong reasons why you should consider leading from behind.

1. You can see the big picture
When you literally take a back seat, you can objectively have a complete overview of everything that is going on, including the strengths, weaknesses, and issues within your team. When you’re too deeply involved while leading from the front, you often miss out on the big picture, and simple solutions that could have helped. Besides, lead from the back also helps you gain a completely new perspective on the work that you and your team do, which, in turn, helps you see the principal goals and milestones that you’ve achieved, those you’re yet to achieve, and accordingly re-evaluate and realign yourself to meet them.

2. It improves patience and understanding of the business
When you lead from behind, you can see all the cogs and wheels in operation, see and understand how each one works towards the achievement of goals. As such, you get to understand the intricacies and individual work patterns of your team members, how they tie together to function in sync with each other. As a result, you become a lot less rigid and more progressive in the way you lead. While at the front, leaders tend to fall into very strict, rule bound patterns because they’re looking from the top down, and do not want anything out of place.

3. It fosters your team’s growth
When you allow your team to take the reins, you’re giving them the freedom to work the way they are comfortable and the opportunity to step up to the plate and take charge of the situation. As a result you’re creating an environment of healthy competition, where team members try to see who can perform the best, and rise up to the challenge of providing deputy leadership to the team. Furthermore, a leader who allows his team to take charge can also interact far more easily with them without intimidating them, and push them to grow and further develop their skills, thereby creating future leaders for the organisation.

4. It helps maintain the overall momentum of the team
By observing from behind, you’re about to examine the team’s pace from an objective distance, and anaylse how each person is performing, now just the select handful at the front who are always in your vision. As a result you can instantly spot the stragglers or the ones who are falling behind and give them special attention so that they’re able to catching up with their peers and colleagues. Like this a leader can ensure that the entire team is working as a whole, at the same strength throughout the journey. This creates a holistic relationship, raising the operational efficiency of the entire team.

5. It frees you up for additional responsibilities and tasks
Instead of being involved in minute workings of each and every aspect of operation, you’ll now have more free time to look at other aspects of the business that could use your expertise and grow your role. Micromanaging is detrimental to your team’s producitivity, as it decreases their morale, and leaves you with a lot less free time. Leading form behind makes all of that moot, giving you more time to devote to other tasks, professional and personal.

Photograph: Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science/Creative Commons 

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