Lead From the Side

There are so many analogies about leadership and space already. ‘Lead from the front’ tends to mean you are out doing the same work as the employees. ‘Lead from the back’ tends to mean that you operate like general, making plans. There are benefits and drawbacks to both; a better option for most is to lead from the side.

That is to say that leaders should really focus on working with their employees, rather than constantly demonstrating or planning. Both actions tend to disassociate leaders from their staff. In one instance, you are setting unrealistic expectations, in the other you have no idea what it’s like in their role. But leaders who are distant enough to see the big picture but involved enough to understand the minutiae of various roles will make the best decisions.

Employees do not need to you to drag or push them across the finish line. They do need you to understand the steps that it takes to get there. And when you are working on problems, they need to confidence to know that you will be solving them together.

Working with your employees is so much different than working for them or having them work for you. It’s a shift in perspective that will help you centre yourself around the concept of being a team rather than being in charge. You have a definitive role as a leader so be careful that your work doesn’t blot out the creativity of others.

To lead from the side means being in the trenches with people, supporting them in their work, and being able to step away to see the big picture. Your role is not in authority, it is in support. And if you support your employees, they will support you in return.

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