This and this – Leading from behind

As a kid my idea of  leading was being in front, leading the pack.  Showing the way it should be done and the route for everyone else to take. Things have changed a lot since then. What does it mean to be a leader?  Here is my first definition from the Free  dictionary:   A person who rules or guides or inspires others. I have another version which goes as follows:  leader is “a person who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal”. A mnemonic for this definition would be 3P’s – Person, People and Purpose.

I don’t like the bit about ruling others so I will leave it out of my analysis. I prefer “guides” or “inspires”. Now with guiding or inspiring others, it doesn’t really matter where you are in the pack. The cleaner with his dedication and commitment and excellence can inspire the chief executive officer of a multinational, a sprawling corporate with a presence throughout the world. For me leading is not about a hierarchy or long or fancy names and titles but leading is about setting an example that  someone else can follow. The soldier with his bravery and quick thinking on the battlefield can show the mighty general a thing or two. It doesn’t matter if all you do is very small in the grand scheme of things.  Do it well and do it with vigour and purpose!

Have ordinary citizens not changed the course of history by providing outstanding piece of leadership?  A certain lady in 1956 refused to give up her seat and changed the psyche of a people and changed the course of history of an entire nation. Today that nation is the most powerful in the whole world.  Would things have been the same if that woman got up and tamely gave up her seat on the bus. Who knows?  A woman who just happened to be on a bus but was in an instant was ready to lead. In an instant she grabbed the one chance she got and that was all she needed. What of the man who stayed 27 years in jail, putting it all on the line really, prepared to provide some leadership even from a cold, far away prison. Even it meant that he would not see his own kids growing up. Some will see sacrifice, commitment, bravery in these acts. I also leadership. These people got many other people thinking, many other people talking, many other people doing, many other people leading.  History is littered with examples of people who have led by example be in the corporate, personal or social space.

So back to one of my  examples earlier on. How can an ordinary cleaner provide leadership? There is no reason why he can’t honestly.  If with his dedication and commitment to the task and job of cleaning, a cleaner is able to set a very high standard. A standard of excellence which should extend to all the internal and external customers of the organisation,   a standard that can apply to the financial goals of the organisation and the people who strive to meet those goals, the processes of that company, the learning and growth including in the organisation, imagine what kind of organisation we will have.

The way I see it it doesn’t matter, whether you are in the middle, at the back of the pack, on the side or if you don’t even know where your position is. You can provide leadership. You can move people towards a common goal and purpose and vision.  You can get people going somewhere. You can make things happen. You can provide leadership!

There is no better person to provide leadership right now besides the person reading this sentence. I have little doubt that the person in question is a person of action, a person who likes to hit the iron while it’s still hot, a person who not only wants to do the right thing but get as many people as possible doing it, a person who is not only prepared to lead but a peson who is going to lead. Get going and all the very best in the wonderful journey and adventure of leadership. BTM

Sources of information: –,;

One comment

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