Last week, I talked about leading from in front —that vestigial assumption about leadership that comes to us from the industrial economy. Leading from in front assumes that leadership and management are synonyms, that what characterizes good leaders is an ability to have good ideas, and then get other people to help realize those ideas faster and cheaper than anyone else.
I argued that in a connection economy—preoccupied as it is not with mass-production, but with creating for smaller, more localized markets—the form of leadership necessary is leading from behind. Leading from behind, I suggested, attempts to liberate the creativity in others, providing permission and resources so that others can produce interesting things.
Today, I want to talk about something I consider a simulacrum of leadership, one that, without care, might be mistaken for leading from behind—but most certainly is not.
I knew a minister once whose default leadership style wasn’t leading from in front. It wasn’t even leading from behind. He followed from in front.
He refused to do anything until he was certain that the whole congregation was behind him. Of course, he called it “consensus building.”
The truth of it was that he found new ideas vaguely threatening, always afraid that any action might blow up in his face.