Our Moral Compass: Lead From Behind

“Lead from the back—and let others believe they are in front.”

-Nelson Mandela

In order to be an impactful leader one must be able to establish and maintain healthy relationships by communicating clearly, listening well and negotiate conflict constructively. Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela embodied this and it is what he said in today’s quote that really exemplified who he was as a leader: He said, “Lead from the back- and let others believe they are in front.” A leader does not always have to be in the front of the line to lead because position does not matter. One of the main roles as a leader is to build the capacity of the group and afford them opportunities to lead others. It should be a cyclical event.

Nelson Mandela directed a campaign of peaceful, nonviolent defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. He even served a 27 year prison sentence and through it all became South Africa’s President from 1994 to 1999. He served as the example that when we put the needs of others first before our own needs it lets others know how much they mean to us. It helps to establish trust and allows for true teamwork to occur. I think when we allow people to believe they are in front it creates within them and the rest of the group a high level of self-confidence. It makes people believe in the cause and not seek the applause. When I think of a leader leading from the back it allows them to observe the relationships amongst the group and how they interact from afar whereas if you are only leading from the front there is little to see because the leader’s viewpoint is much more limited. Plus when you are making these observations from the back it can afford you the opportunity to make any adjustments to better support the group that you lead which in turn will make the group as a whole better.

Just as we want our students in education engaged in the work, we as leaders must want the same for those we work alongside with too. At the end of the day all we really have left is one another; to lean on and get through the difficult challenges that may come our way. So why not make your relationship with the team the focal point in whatever you are trying to accomplish in life?

What does this quote mean to you and how can you apply today’s message towards developing your relationship skills?

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