Friday, May 6, 2011

Leading from Many Places

Last week, I heard one of President Obama's aides say the President was "leading from behind" on a couple of major international and domestic issues, like reducing the federal deficit and humanitarian/military policy in Libya.  Opponents of the President pounced on this statement and claimed that "leading from behind" is not leadership at all.  I think the President's leadership style in these situations is appropriate to his style and goals, and any statement that leaders can only lead from the front is simply incorrect.

You should be able and willing to lead from any number of positions, places, and roles.  Leadership can and does come from many places on the team.  When the leader is willing to allow others to take point at various points in the process, it creates opportunities for greater possibilities, initiative, more leaders, and a greater impact from expanded leadership.  Leaders can never give up or transfer their obligations, responsibility, or accountability based on their position or title.  The art of leadership involves many choices and challenges - a leader at their best, understands how to create space for leadership from all parts of the organization without losing authority, respect, accountability, or sacrificing results.

Leaders must know when to be out front, when to let others take the lead, and when to allow participation to cement commitment and accountability to an idea, a cause, or a plan.  Being a leader of leaders means you must allow many kinds of leadership depending upon the situation.  I view the President's ability to cause consensus as a leadership strength that we all need to have in our tool box.

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