Are you Leading from the Front or Back?

Leadership is so critical today. Poor leadership is one of the top reasons for employee disengagement and turnover. Many who get into leader roles often do so through attrition or are put into their roles in a quick manner. But are they truly prepared for the role?

I don’t think most who aspire for a leader role truly take the time to decide on the type of leader they want to be and determine the skills and traits they want to portray. Especially considering that people follow those who they identify with, i.e. traits, or characteristics. This means that those already in this role have a responsibility to self-assess and ensure they are portraying skills attributed to leadership, such as drive, determination, integrity, and sociability (Northouse, 2010).


Those who aspire, or are new in leader role, can also do the same and work to develop their skills. One other area is to know is if you are leading from the front or the back. I had a client who was fairly new in their role and discussed that they needed to lead from the back, feeling that leading from the front was a negative position. I’m not sure this person understood the meaning but it did give me pause and consideration.

The client felt that leading from the front means it’s all about them and their needs, and does not take individual workers into consideration, while leading from the back means that the leader takes a ‘back seat’ and let’s employees steer the ship. I don’t know if either of these is correct, although I think it depends on one’s point-of-view.

To lead from the front, in my opinion, is to be the guide for workers; leaders set work goals and then allow their people to work autonomously while providing support and encouragement. Daniel Pink, in his book Drive (2010), says that autonomy is one of three motivators that drive performance (the others being purpose and mastery). Front leaders don’t abdicate their power but they don’t use it to be oppressive (micromanaging).

Leading from the back, to me, means the leader allows their people to shine while being there to uplift and help to problem-solve, as needed. The best leaders I’ve worked for have led from both the front and the back – they’ve recognized the strengths and skills of their workers and allowed them to work in their own way, which got work done faster and with more quality; they were there to motivate through affirmations and recognition. These leaders are often comfortable being in the background but their presence is felt by all. Essentially, their ego does not get in the way but they know their position.

Whether you are in a formal leadership position or not, you are leading in some form or fashion, i.e. leader in your family, leader in a group you belong to, leader of yourself). Take time to be more aware of how you are leading in both your work and your life – these skills apply not just in one area so it means you need to recognize and use them to  be a leader. Keep developing your skills – read, work to master them, and look to inspire others to do their best; this is truly leading from the front!

Committed to Your Success Coaching & Consulting focuses on workplace happiness and organizational success. If you need help gaining clarity on your business or career goals, why not get some help – stop the struggle and call today to get started! or

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