The Army teaches officers to “lead from the front”, creating visions of a sabre-wielding leader in Union blue followed by legions of men and a cacophony of battle cries as he charges the enemy. This style of leadership makes a lot of sense on the battlefield. During times of crisis that are oftentimes associated with combat, there isn’t time for group input. Decisions must be made on limited information, and leaders must show their followers that they are not going ask of them anything they are not willing to do themselves.
Thinking about leadership more deeply, I began to ask myself – is this always the most effective form of leadership?
As a civilian leader and entrepreneur, I have found myself leading from various places in order to drive performance. At times, I’ve certainly had to lead from the front, providing a foundation for the team by setting the example in times of crisis. In less critical moments, I’ve held back encouraging my people to push themselves, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. On a rare occasion or two, I’ve had to lead from the back by nudging people to get things where they needed to be. And there have been instances where it makes sense to lead from the middle, serving in a facilitator role rather than one of positional leadership power.
To me, this speaks of the theory of situational leadership – adapting our leadership style and behaviors to the context of the situation and the capabilities of the team in order to get the best from our people.
So, my question to you is, “From where do you lead?”