Leading from the back

by. Rich Jones

We often see a leader as the point person but the reality is leaders very seldom take point and when all goes well maybe shouldn’t. That is not to say that leadership doesn’t take courage, it says a great leader must first accept all the responsibilities of the decision but then must inspire the courage of others to act on those decisions. Accepting responsibility is difficult because of the possible consequences and the requirement to step forward when things go wrong and own the consequences. At the point of mis-step or failure the leader quickly and purposefully steps into the point position.

A true skill of leadership is a person’s ability to empower the team to demonstrate the courage to act and execute on the strategy; to make the ongoing decisions that allow for excellent execution. This courage is transferred to others naturally when the leader communication resonates with integrity, transparency, and purpose.

Courage transference also requires allowing imperfection to happen. Expecting 100% perfect at all times is an impossible goal and stifles innovation and appropriate risk taking. What is not acceptable is an unsuccessful end result. To attain final success while allowing imperfection along the way takes honest communication by all team members about what is going wrong, what is broken or what mistakes were made so they can be corrected immediately so the damage to the final outcome is mitigated. It also requires continual testing and verifying to insure issues, mistakes and problems are uncovered as early in the process as possible.

The last element of leadership is inspiration; getting the right people, on the right job, with appropriate deadlines and keeping them energized to execute expertly. This is only done with honest feedback, recognition and correction, in real-time. This can be done via email, but face-to-face is more powerful. Over reliance on electronic communication can undermine a leader’s best intentions. Everyone likes and needs to feel a personal connection to their leader when they are expected to assume the courage to do their job expertly and communicate honestly. The bigger the strategy the more critical the personal Connection. Employees are inspired by people, not emails or text messages.

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