My favourite analogy for a ‘good’ leader was that of a chariot driver. The horses powering the vehicle are out in front, while the guy driving is at the back nudging the chariot’s precise direction with the slightest of touches to each horse.
This supported my understanding of leadership. I believe that there is a difference to be realised – leading from the front versus leading from the back.
Anyone can be appointed or nominated to be in charge of a group or situation. Are they actually someone that can lead? Leading is doing. Whoever takes responsibility and begins to act effectively takes up the leadership role.
Those who have been assigned the title of “leader” are leading from the front. The immediate action that person takes is to say, “Great, I’m in charge, follow me!” – but how often does that really transpire as a success?
Leaderless situations, so-called because they come about without an ‘official’ leader chosen to take charge and responsibility, will sometimes stutter until one person begins to work. Others will follow the example that person sets and ask what they must do to contribute. This is leading from the back – being the chariot driver.
Look at the military. Western armed forces typically have a hierarchy split into two tiers. Commissioned officers begin their careers at Second Lieutenant and are appointed in charge of a platoon. In support, and to lead from the back, is a Sergeant Major – a Non-Commissioned Officer whose experience and ability commands the respect of everyone in the platoon.
Do we need appointed leaders?