Leading from the back

As I was reading this HBR article about the ‘modern’ interpretation of being a leader – ‘The leader as coach‘ – when I saw that Graham Brown-Martin had also just shared it, using this quote as the focus for his share:

“Twenty-first-century managers simply don’t (and can’t!) have all the right answers. To cope with this new reality, companies are moving away from traditional command-and-control practices and toward something very different: a model in which managers give support and guidance rather than instructions, and employees learn how to adapt to constantly changing environments in ways that unleash fresh energy, innovation, and commitment.”

This resonates greatly with me at the moment – I hadn’t really thought that my management ‘style’ had any meaning or theory behind it other than I manage/treat others like I like to be managed – I line manage Learning Designers and particiapte in many organisational and team managment, leadership, strategic and organisational meetings. What I end up doing most of the day is using my breadth of knowledge of learning ‘technology’, student engagement, institutional structure, learning-about-learning, etc. and apply it to a variety of circumstances which affect not only learning design but also other aspects of course creation and delivery.

Leading from the front is often counter-productive here. Leading from the back and letting the details speak for themselves. I still have a great deal of knowedge and detailed background in the current platform we develop and deliver on (FutureLearn), so I have a lot to offer there, but it’s also more appropriate for me to take a step back and let the learning designers own and grow in that space, and for me to take the ‘lead’ in making with they have the skills, and opportunity to develop the skills, to drive our development and understanding.

“There may be times when all team members are productively getting on with their work, and the right approach to managing them is to leave them alone.”

To this end, I choose to ‘lead from the back’, as I call it. I have no intention to ‘command and control’, as the article suggests leadership has been previously, but I do want to enable and empower my co-workers and colleagues to be the best they can. As the above quote also suggests, if it works and everyone is getting on with ‘it’, then leave it alone and just be ready to support and coach when asked.

PS. I am in no way considering myself a ‘coach’ or ‘coaching’ my team, but perhaps I should explore this avenue as part of my PD far more than I have to date?

As I said in a previous post (‘Instructions’), “let me be me and you will always get the best of me.” The same is true of those I manage. I let them be them in the hope that will also get the best of them.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash