Why You Need To Learn To Lead From The Back

Throughout the early years of my management and leadership career, I was constantly told about the importance of leaders leading the front, taking up the charge. How leaders needed to show people the way, roll their sleeves up and demonstrate how things should be done.

I loved this as I was always in the thick of things trying to take control and be the main man, which really helped me to rise up through the ranks and stand out.

But there comes a point where this changes and instead of being a benefit it starts to become more of a limitation, and unless you are happy with a mid-level leadership position it can actually stall your career.

Span of Control

As we progress as a leader our span of control tends to increase.

We are given bigger and more complex projects, asked to lead more teams and larger groups of people, and there comes a point where it becomes impossible to lead from the front as there are now too many fronts where we are involved.

Not only that but in today’s global virtual world, many of the teams are neither in our location or timezone, which makes it impossible to lead them from the front.

Now to be successful you need to be able to transition from leading from the front to leading from the back. Swapping your span of control for a sphere of influence.

And it’s here that many management careers stall and falter.

Now it’s no longer about being the hero, it’s about creating more heroes, teams of heroes, and being willing to give control to others, to allow them to lead on the many various fronts that we are now involved in.

It requires us to have trust in our teams, to have faith in their capabilities, their decision making and their ability to be successful.

To the leader that can make that transition, the world is their oyster, as they will be able to take that step up and lead on a much larger scale.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

One of the challenges is that the skills that get you halfway up the leadership ladder are not the ones that will get you to the top.

To make that step you have to become a master of people skills.

You need to be able to engage teams you might never meet in person.

You need to master inspiration and be able to excite and enthuse people who rarely get to interact with you.

And in today’s world, with all of the tele- and home-working, because of covid, this transition now starts earlier on the leadership ladder. Which I think s good news as this is going to promote the need for better leaders and leadership skills.

This step is hard, but only because we have to forget a lot of what we have learned, but if you are willing to make the effort, to get out of your comfort zone then you can succeed and reap the benefits.

One client told me recently that the hardest part for them was giving up control.

But in reality, control is an illusion, so there is nothing to give up, you just need to become comfortable with not being in control and instead focus on using your influence.

Leadership is influence and influence is leadership.

My advice to all those looking to progress higher into leadership is to learn and understand the sources of influence and focus on building influence rather than worry about giving up control.

Oh yes, and don’t forget the people skills, as leadership is all about the people.


If you’d like help on making that transition then click the link and let’s arrange a time to see how I can help you progress on that journey.