The terms “leading from the front” and “leading from the back” are two leadership styles characterized by different but equally essential sets of behaviors. Leading from the front involves setting a direction for the team, setting priorities and plans, clarifying roles, setting expectations for staff, monitoring results and holding them accountable for performance. In contrast, leadership from behind involves connecting with staff on a personal level, communicating effectively, soliciting input, providing support, establishing trust, empowerment, and sometimes letting employees take the lead. Rather than exploiting the advantages of both styles, the pendulum typically swings from one extreme to the other depending on the social and economic values of the time, often with troublesome results.
The term “leading from behind” can be traced back to the Ohio State University leadership studies of the 1950s, but has become increasingly popular over the past few decades. In his 1994 autobiography, Nelson Mandela compared a successful leader to a shepherd: “He stays behind the flock and lets the nimblest go out in front, after which the others follow, not realizing that they are always being directed from behind.”
Recently, we have also become more aware of the importance of inclusivity, cultural awareness and giving all people a voice. Add to that the complexity of a worldwide pandemic crisis and a troubling stream of headlines about “the great resignation.”
Not surprisingly, business has responded to these external forces by introducing a gentler culture—one that offers kindness in times of crisis like the pandemic and encourages humility, empathy, trust-building, as well as what is needed to keep workers motivated to to return to work and combat turnover. What is not taken into account is:
At first blush, the big layoff seems to suggest that workers across the board have used the pandemic to reassess their priorities and values, prompting them to leave their workplaces or demand more from their employers. Digging deeper, however, experts remind us that this prediction — made by Texas A&M Professor Anthony Klotz in 2020 — may have been exaggerated.
There may not be as many resignations as we think, and perhaps not for the reasons we think. Instead, perhaps we should look at the sweeping generalizations about The Great Resignation with some moderation before reacting in panic. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic describes it more as a “free agent” period for low-income workers changing jobs to make more money, plus a “moderate increase in early retirements.” There is also an observable increase in resignations in some specific industries, with the highest being food service and retail. But resignations have increased from 3 percent to 6.8 percent and 4.7 percent in these sectors – not 30 percent!
In other words, the pandemic was largely a time of high demand for low-income workers (such as restaurant or service industry workers) competing for better jobs and for older workers to retire in greater numbers. Research shows that the actual labor force participation rate increased for most groups – men and women, whites and non-whites in the primarily white-collar and knowledge industries. But the growing stir about a potential “mass exodus” of skilled workers has, in turn, caused managers to pivot so strongly toward “leading from behind” that they have effectively become cheerleaders for their employees. For example, the first five results in a recent LinkedIn search for “What is effective leadership?” returned:
We found it interesting – and worrying – that there was not a single reference to achieving results or leading high performing teams to achieve critical business outcomes in the top five. We are not suggesting that empathy, humility, inclusivity, psychological safety, or other behaviors associated with “leading from behind” are not important. Not at all. What we are advocating is that leadership today actually requires careful balancing of both leading “from the front” and “leading from the back.”
An article by The Wall Street Journal about Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine being developed in record time under CEO Albert Bourla’s so-called “demanding” management style shows the confusion felt over what it means to “lead from the front.” The WSJ called this, “a story of urgency, innovation, creative problem-solving, agile global collaboration, calculated risk in the face of great uncertainty, and performance beyond expectation,” leading readers to wonder if we had lost ourselves in an era of “empathy, compassion and inclusion.”
This critical view of Bourla’s results-driven culture of innovation and accountability was seen as consistent with the prevailing “leading from behind” support philosophy. Despite impressive results, Bourla’s style can largely only have been excused because it came on the heels of the pandemic – a crisis. In keeping with his original manifesto, Mandela stated that it is indeed appropriate for the shepherd to step forward in times of danger. But is it true that “leading from the front” is only necessary in times of crisis, change and uncertainty?
Labeling Bourla’s remarkable “leading from the front” actions as “a demanding leadership style” loses sight of the leader’s critical role in driving an accountable culture. In a 2020 article, psychologist Rob Kaiser pointed to a growing global “crisis of accountability”. This comprehensive study found that two out of three managers were considered to be failing to hold employees appropriately accountable, largely due to the fear of being unpopular. Too many leaders tolerate poor performance in favor of being perceived as empathetic, inclusive, empowering and authentic to advance their career prospects. Not surprisingly, overemphasis on leading from behind is significantly related to declines in productivity, and employees in less accountable cultures also tend to be less engaged.
Returning to the Pfizer success story, what readers were missing was Bourla’s story of inclusive relationships, trust, and resilient behaviors exhibited regularly before the crisis. Viewing his leadership style in a vacuum during the pandemic fails to account for the bigger picture of how he balanced both “leading from the front” and “leading from behind” leadership behaviors depending on what (and how much) the situation called for.
One company that understands this critical balanced approach is Sysco Corporation. “We are in the midst of executing a change agenda at Sysco that drives growth, innovation and improving the customer and employee experience, and we are doing this in an environment of severe velocity, volatility and uncertainty,” said Sysco Vice President of Global Talent Management Michael Fischer . “Our improved performance management process helps enable this by creating a culture of accountability through frequent feedback and coaching. The focus is both on achieving results and creating a supportive and inclusive environment.”
What is the lesson here? It is certainly not giving up the leaders’ focus globally on cultural inclusion, getting input and building strong relationships through humility, listening and building trust. Based on the results of the Kaiser survey, we believe that leaders can create a culture of accountability (setting goals, holding employees accountable through ongoing feedback, coaching and support) while showing respect, inclusiveness and building strong relationships. That is, “leading from the front” does not mean “a demanding culture,” nor does “leading from the back” imply a focus on support to the exclusion of outcomes.
The data is in: Employees are more engaged when they are part of a culture of accountability! It’s time to stop cheering, to rethink the meaning of leadership … and lead from all sides.
How do I describe my leadership style?
Sample answer #1: “I would describe my leadership style as direct and leading by example. On the same subject : Siloam Springs School Board Celebrates FCCLA Cheerleaders. I enjoy delegating tasks and leading projects, but I also like to stay involved and inspire my team by showing that I am also working hands-on to help them.
What three words would you use to describe your management style? Describe your management style in three words. The other two words should help them understand the way you actually lead the people or the project. Some good words you can use (depending on your way of leading others) are: kind, inspiring, motivating, goal-oriented, demanding, personal, coaching.
What is the most important skill you need in performing Cheerdance?
In cheerleading it is best to focus on three areas; flexibility, strength and endurance. Read also : Introducing the 2017 ROAR of the Jaguars.. Flexibility is necessary when practicing and performing jumps.
What is the most important part of being a cheerleader? One of the most important things that cheerleading instills is confidence. That’s because it shows you that you can accomplish difficult things, and it surrounds you with good, supportive friends, among other things.
What skill a cheerleader cheer dancer should have?
Cheerleading Traits Confident (cheerleaders are out in front of crowds all the time and need to project positive confidence in themselves and their team) good team players (cheerleading is about working together) disciplined (you will learn and practice routines that you have to memorize ) On the same subject : You can’t hate kid-friendly drag shows and love cheerleaders.