Friday, August 01, 2008

Leading from the Back: 4 Rules to Developing Other Leaders

A good leader needs to be able to sit in the back seat once in a while and turn the wheel over to someone else. He or she knows when it’s time to relinquish the lead and let someone else shine for a change. This is a very important skill, in that it allows you to fulfill your number one goal as a leader: to enable and encourage others to become leaders.

So, what does leading from the back seat look like? No, it’s not your vision of a back seat driver. You know the one, that is always telling you how to drive, and you just want to pull the car over and let them take the wheel. I’m not talking about that. No, the back seat leader is one who just steps back from the limelight in order to allow a teammate, colleague, follower, etc, step up and take the lead. The back seat leader empowers others to find it within themselves to take over. That’s what the back seat leader does. And, when doing so, it’s important that the back seat leader follow these 4 guidelines:

  1. Be a Support Character – When you relinquish the lead to someone else, make sure they know that you are there to support them. You need to be able to answer questions, help make points, etc, without taking the spotlight from them.
  2. Be a Cheerleader – Cheer them on. Let them know that they are doing a good job. If they aren’t doing a particular good job, then encourage them by giving some direction.
  3. Provide Your Expertise – Part of supporting and cheering, is also being there to provide your expertise if needed. Make sure to wait until asked for your expertise, as to not step on anyone’s toes.
  4. Influence and Motivate the Laggards – It’s important that you stay towards the “back of the pack” and help motivate those dwelling back there. This will help the new leader keep focus on his/her tasks. They can be confident that you will help bring those lagging behind, up to speed.

Leadership is all about developing others, so it’s important that as a leader, you take a back seat and let others take the lead. Remember, though, that when doing so, don’t be like that annoying back seat driver we’ve all come to dislike. Instead, follow the four simple rules above and you will help empower others to lead.


Anonymous said...

Eric - Very well said. This is hard to do. It brought visions of my high school cross country workouts. The leaders always looped back at times to run with the back of the pack and worked there way to the front encouraging and cheering as they went. These guys probably put in twice the mileage and seem to be a good example of a backseat leader.

Thanks for the post,


Eric Peterson said...

Sorry for the tardiness in my follow up. School got busy (but you know how that is).

Great example of backseat leadership. It's amazing how some people will "go the extra mile" (literally in this case) to help build up and encourage others. Thanks for the great example Bob!

Angela Maiers said...

Brilliant post. By your definition, it takes courage, confidence, and vision to lead in this way, and isn't that what leadership is all about anyway! What a way to turn the idea of leadership upside down and inside out-great work!

Eric Peterson said...

Angela - Thank you for joining in again. It does take courage, confidence, and vision to be able to relinquish "the wheel" and empower someone else to take over.

I think it's a hard thing to do for many leaders. Sometimes we tend to "need" to be in control, when the best thing for our team is to relinquish some of that control and build our team up as leaders.

Rosa Say said...

Aloha Eric, good to meet you: I came over via Angela Maiers tweeting about your article. Very well said, and I particularly like what you have suggested about influencing and helping to motivate any laggards; that is an exceptional way for a "backseat leader" to add tremendous value to a team, continuing to lead by nature of their good example, and the ability most effective leaders have to gather up available energies.

If I may be so bold to add a pointer, self-leadership is the topic of our value of the month program on MWA Coaching, and I do hope you will visit if time permits to add some thoughts:

Eric Peterson said...

Thank you for swingin' by, and I'm sorry for my delay in response. I've down a lot of "wingow shopping" on your Manageing With Aloha site, as well as the JJL site, but I fail to leave much in the way of comments. Your leadership advice is much appreciated and much needed by many in the blogosphere. I thank you for that.