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Lead From Behind: The Power of Elevating Others

Updated: Dec 15, 2023


When speaking to Dr. Debra West, Chancellor of Arkansas State University Mid-South, on my "Empowering Women in Educational Leadership" August 30th episode, she said that her goal is to “lead from behind”. She continued to highlight that a great leader is not always out in front, but rather supporting, elevating, and encouraging those around them to be the best they can be. Let me elaborate a bit more.


Leadership is often visualized as being at the forefront – leading the charge, setting the pace, and taking center stage. Yet, there's a unique, potent form of leadership that isn’t talked about as often but is just as effective: leading from behind. It's a style that champions empowerment, support, and the belief that true leadership isn't about self-promotion but about elevating those around you.





1. The Heart of "Lead From Behind" Philosophy


Nelson Mandela once said, “A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” This philosophy encapsulates the essence of leading from behind. It's not about being invisible, but about ensuring every member of the team feels seen, heard, and valued.


2. Empowerment Over Ego


True leaders understand that leadership isn’t a platform for personal glory but a responsibility to guide, nurture, and inspire. Leading from behind means setting aside the ego and prioritizing the growth and success of the team. It's about ensuring every individual feels confident in their abilities and understands their value to the collective mission.


3. The Silent Cheerleader


While the spotlight might shine on those at the forefront, a 'lead from behind' leader is the silent cheerleader, always there to offer encouragement, guidance, and support. They revel in the successes of their team, understanding that every achievement is a testament to collective effort and collaboration.


4. Fostering Autonomy and Innovation


By leading from behind, leaders give their teams the space and freedom to innovate, take risks, and make decisions. This autonomy not only boosts morale and confidence but also fosters creativity and innovation. When team members feel trusted and empowered, they are more likely to take ownership of their roles and contribute meaningfully to the group's objectives.


5. The Humility in Leadership


A leader who chooses to lead from behind exhibits profound humility. They recognize that their strength lies not in their individual capabilities but in their ability to unify, motivate, and uplift a group of diverse individuals towards a common goal.


6. Creating Future Leaders


Perhaps one of the most impactful aspects of this leadership style is its ability to cultivate future leaders. By actively elevating and empowering team members, leaders are not just achieving short-term objectives but ensuring the longevity and continuity of their mission by nurturing the next generation of leaders.


In conclusion, leading from behind is a testament to the idea that leadership isn’t about individual prowess but about collective progress. It’s a reminder that sometimes the most impactful place a leader can be is not in the limelight, but in the shadows, ensuring every member of the team shines brightly. Leadership, at its core, isn't about the individual at the helm, but the journey of the collective – and sometimes, the most effective way to guide that journey is from a step behind.


I encourage you to lead from behind and become that transformational and empowering leader. For guidance along your journey, reach out to me for a free consultation at www.drstephanieduguid.com. Be the champion leader focused on elevating those around you!








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