Timer starts. Now.
I got a message on Facebook this morning from a friend who wanted some input about a friendship issue.
At the end of my reply to her, I shared this advice:
I hope that you can move forward in this new peace with (your friend). I hope that your friendship will be stronger as you accept one another, forgive one another, and commit to encourage each other even when you make different choices.
One last thought: even if she is unable to do that for you, perhaps you can go first: be the one to accept, encourage, reassure, and love her first. (That’s what leaders do.)
As I rushed around today to pick up the girls from school and prepare lunch, I thought about that often-used phrase: leaders go first.
I also thought about the comment on my last post from Beth Vogt, who wrote “I like to lead from the back of the room.”
In many situations, leaders need to go first, set the example, be willing to step forward and take action. Leaders need to love first, encourage first, share first, forgive first, reach out first.
Leaders also need to be able to go last. To put others and their needs first. To serve. To listen. To take the back seat. To lead from the back of the room. To let others shine.
Leaders need to think about and consider others’ needs first. To do that, leaders put themselves last.
My twelve minutes are nearly gone. So set your timer for a minute or three and tell me what you think. In what other ways do leaders need to go first… and last?
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.
OK, I’ll go first about going last.
It’s so easy for a leader to step up to the front. We’re usually comfortable up front. We know what needs to be done and we do it. People expect us to do it. Ask us it to it. We say yes.
But … part of leading is mentoring. Finding the next leader–the person beside you or behind you with the potential to lead.
I’ve learned I need to step to the back of the room while giving that potential leader a gentle shove to the front of the room–with an encouraging, “You can do this. I’ve got your back.”
And then you stay in the back. And nod. And smile. And applaud.
It’s true, leaders shouldn’t always go first, especially when it’s about benefits, perks or rewards. Since leaders wear different hats, they must adopt the role as a whole and go first or last, depending on the hat worn at the moment.
I would suggest that sometimes going first is putting your needs last. The first to act is the first hit by a tomato, the first to make a mistake, the first to exhaust his/her resources. By doing so, others can follow more efficiently, more successfully, becoming leaders along the way. It’s great to lead by offering others the chance to succeed by letting them go first. And sometimes we lead by letting others go last.
I agree with Beth. We must let some problems percolate to give the emerging leaders room to step forward. We also need to learn to listen and ask too. Once the leader gives their opinion, some team members decide that’s what the leader wanted to hear and it becomes difficult to get a better opinion or even just a different one.
When there are unknowns, we need to be willing to go first like Deb mentioned and when others are capable of stepping forward, we need to give them a chance and not force them to be better or quicker than we are to try. Thanks for a great post and comments.
I immediately flashed back to one of the nicest compliments I remember receiving.
Our college was very supportive of the local United Way and one year, my assignment was to work with a special project: a group of high school and college students who formed a Youth Action Committee to administer the awarding of funds for youth-oriented programs. The process duplicated the regular United Way process as much as possible, on a smaller financial scale and with a limited scope.
I worked with the group for some months and stood proudly in the back of the room as they presented their year end report to a room full of United Way folks, other local dignitaries, and many of my colleagues from the college. As they ran through what we had practiced and planned, I was silently talking along with them and was so proud of their ability to put this off before a somewhat tough crowd.
At the conclusion, the United Way board president (who happened to also be the president of the college) stood up and gave an eloquent “thanks” to the young people for their spirit, poise, and example of civic responsibility to others.
Then he added “And I need to acknowledge the guy standing unobtrusively in the back of the room, whose quiet leadership helped create the accomplishments of these young people.”
Just one sentence, but it has stuck with me over many years. Sometimes what we call leading from the back is simply another way of saying “we coach, we train, we nurture . . . and then we confidently let them go.”
Thanks for letting me revisit something I need to remember more often:)
So much I could say to this, but will just add something I saw a long while back, a pic of a leader chasing a group with caption: “Hark I must hasten after them for I am their leader!” Don’t know what that says, but will just add that I am a huge proponent of Servant Leadership! Have a good one Becky and all
I’ve always found you can have profound influence if you take the initiative to give people permission to act. People seem to wait for it…and its easy to makle that first move.
Something about that GIVING PERMISSION TO ACT concept that bugs me, sounds too dictatorial, etc. I get it regardless Paul.
Once the leader gives their opinion, some team members decide that’s what the leader wanted to hear and it becomes difficult to get a better opinion or even just a different one.
I agree with what Mike said–I’ve seen it happen.
And I love that photo example given by Doug–the one of the guy chasing a group and the caption: “Hark, I must hasten after them for I am their leader!”
You began the post with advice you gave a friend about reconciliation. In leadership there are often differences of opinion, and working in close proximity is always an opportunity for a break in relationship. I love that you encourage your friend to take the first step. So many times we lack courage or purpose in reconciling relationships. Leaders value relationships no matter what the cost to themselves, even if it means like you said “going a different direction.”
“Going a different direction” can seem like death to a friendship, but it doesn’t have to be. When we give one another freedom to take another route there can often be a deepening of relationship. The other option is just pretending to be on the same page, while secretly wishing for an “out.”
Successful leaders are able to stay true to their vision while giving others “permission” to have their own. This is going first and last.