Secrets of the Spotlight
Tabitha, a member of the Leadership Freak Facebook page says, “I’d like to see what you think of the phrase, ‘Lead from the front.’”
Leaders that can’t lead from the front can’t lead.
For much of my leadership career I’ve done a few things right and many things wrong. Even though I spent plenty of time in the front, I didn’t lead from the front.
You may embrace the servant-leader model, I do. However, if you aren’t alert, humble servant-leadership wrongly translates into passivity, comfort, weakness, even running from the spotlight.
Stepping into the spotlight
Bold leaders inevitably lead from the front. They are the face of an organization or movement.
Leading from the front includes:
- Casting compelling vision
- Exercising positive influence
- Leading meetings
- Working through resistance
- Solving conflicts
- Fueling forward momentum
- Establishing positive tone
- Building organizational confidence
Leading from the front requires alignment with organizational values, mission, and vision. Alignment:
- Authorizes leaders to step into the spotlight
- Enables decision-making
- Energizes servant-leaders
Leaders not aligned with organizational values, mission, and vision abuse their position, power, and constituents. Alignment is the foundation of your right to step into the spotlight.
The secret of the spotlight
Successfully leading from the front is an expression of profound humility. Submitting to organizational values, mission, and vision is the secret to success in the spotlight. Submission legitimizes leadership power, the deeper the submission the greater the power.
Note: the juxtaposition of power and humility is intentional.
The down side of the front
Stepping into the spotlight exposes servant-leaders to praise and criticism. Both are dangerous. Praise may inflate the leader’s ego and create envy in others. Criticism may demoralize and eventually defeat. In either case, the answer remains, obedience to higher principles authorizes servant-leaders to step into the spotlight and lead from the front.
What skills and behaviors help leaders successfully lead from the front?
I think high tolerance power and committed confidence help leaders to lead successfully from the front. Criticism is integral part of leadership. Manipulators seek praises. Leaders tolerate criticism. I also believe that leading from the front or back is situational. When followers are well equipped with confidence, committment and energy and feel presence of leader, that is the real leadership. There are situations where leaders need to protect the followers by debating, discussing, arguing and providing their rights in right intention in the organisations, then leaders need to lead from the front. Today, people in the organisations play tricks on the cost of fellow career and this is perceived leadership. Leaders who think for their own interest and benefit are not leaders, instead they are manipulators.
To be in spotlight is not the job of leaders. They do job for their own satisfaction and they derive satisfaction by aligning people with their purposes. I strongly believe that leaders are inspired, influenced but not motivated and they influence and inspire others to achieve their objectives. So, leader is to inspire, manager is to motivate and of course, the choice depends.
I’m a strongly believe that part of leading from the front means leading by example. Part of my own personal leadership philosophy is “I’ll never ask you to do something that I won’t do myself.” (something your picture for this post illustrates nicely)
If I want to have any influence, my followers must see me doing what I’m asking from them – if I talk about an important strategy, my decisions should align with that; if I talk about the importance of teamwork, my reward systems should support that; if I say I value candid, open debate, I had better be willing to listen to others and flex my own positions.
Excellent post Dan. I especially liked your list of examples of what is required to step into the spotlight successfully.
To me “leading from the front” is not about submission to goals or values. It is about the deepest level of commitment to them. In days of old, those that led from the front where highly visible. They motivated the troops to take the hill, inspired them to seek new lands, and dared them to achieve the impossible because in their commitment they stood in front and took those steps with their troops, team or followers. It takes courage to lead from the front and it takes daring. There is no place to hide at the front – no one to shield you from the bullets or arrows. Today those threats may be more literal than physical, but without deep commitment it is hard to go the distance.
I like your use of the term “commitment.” Leading from the front means commitment to organizational goals, values. It’s proactive not reactive.
When I chose the term submission to organizational values I wanted to show that the courage and commitment to lead from the front wasn’t necessarily arrogance, something those leading from the front get accused of.
However, “commitment to” rather than “submission to” not only sounds proactive. It also helps one see that leading from the front isn’t about reluctantly doing what one doesn’t want to do.
Am I tracking with you?
Thanks for adding your perspective. I enjoy your insights.
Good point Dan. Passion and commitment can be confused with arrogance. The key is how we communicate AND how we lead by example as we lead from the front.
Thanks again, you enrich and expand my thinking.
What skills and behaviors help leaders successfully lead from the front?
I think a “combo” of decisiveness along with the ability to successfully communicate to those in the very back makes for a successful leader.
I think Bill Marriott embodies this blend well – the corporation would not have had the success it has had without decisiveness from the top, but it wouldn’t have the employee retention it has without a well-known commitment on the part of top leadership to understand and personally meet, to the degree possible, the “regular” workforce. This blog about two women who worked their way up represents that blend:
With more risks come more rewards, isn’t this the case in most situations?
My CEO is definitely a spotlight leader, I see the sacrifices it requires but I also think it bears awesome rewards in the long term.
I think focus is an important element in leading from the front. There may be a commitment to a company’s goals and mission, much like a commitment to a girlfriend, etc. However, without investing in that relationship and staying focused, it is easy to fall off track with the original mission. Focus means often saying “no” for the good of the company, but it produces personal growth and durability for some of the trials that accompany being out ‘on stage.’
Good read. Enjoyed your thoughts. I too embrace the servant leader model and find that the more service done the more ‘leading’ is done. Wether it is from the front or the back it seems to come out ahead!
You ask: “What skills and behaviors help leaders successfully lead from the front?” Based on your desciption of leading from the front I’d say a mix of confidence plus humility. A Moses, for example: Moses epitomized modesty yet was bold enough to question his Leader.
This is extremely difficult to maintain. As you say, criticism and praise can strengthen one side and weaken the other, robbing the leader’s balance.
Perhaps what a leader needs most, then, is high-performing followers. Followers who can take the lead themselves, are willing to hand leadership back, and who tell the truth with enough mercy for it to be heard.
That was a very uplifting article. I really loved the juxtapositioning of power and humility. I like your list, too. I’ve recently found that establishing a positive tone is indeed very important, and not only establishing it but maintaining it always. Thank you for the very informative reading.
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Step Into The Spotlight and take a stand.
Some people will love you for exactly the
same reason as others don’t.
Start a movement & people will follow.
Author, Step Into The Spotlight! : A Guide to Getting Noticed
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