Business Leadership Advice

Leading from the Front

Written by Cory Thompson for Gaebler Ventures

Leading from the front is a common business term, but is it as effective as most business leaders say it is? This article discusses an alternative definition of leading from the front that may have a better impact on productivity.

As the owner of a small business, it is likely that you will be working as hard, if not harder, than anyone else that you may choose to employ.

With that said, however, it is critically important that if you wish to serve as a leader for your people - not just as a "boss" - that you possess several important qualities.

One of these qualities is the capacity to "lead from the front".

Leading from the front is one of those general business catch phrases that you may have heard spouted ad nauseum at an MBA leadership seminar or a national conference for high achievers.

I have often heard that phrase used in self aggrandizement as national leaders talk about how great they are, and how you can also be great by doing what they do.

However, I would like to present an alternative definition.

Rather than thinking that leading from the front means "do as I do", let's alter the meaning to "I am willing to do whatever I have asked you to do."

Although somewhat similar in concept, the altered definition of leading from the front carries a huge amount of difference in meaning. Allow me to explain: the error that most leaders make in asserting the "do as I do" model is that they fail to realize that in many instances employees simply are not able or willing to do what they do.

Take any professional athlete as an example. No matter how many times you may swing a golf club, it is entirely possible because of either a genetic characteristic or simple life circumstances that you may never be as good a golfer as Tiger Woods.

It is possible that despite the fact you can make it from your home to the grocery store and back, swerving in and out of traffic and beating every red light in record time that you may never be able to win a NASCAR event.

The reason I mention this is because as a leader, you need to understand that iconic examples, though they serve to motivate in the short term, fail to alter employee behavior permanently. I submit that one reason for this is because many of those amazing "examples" are so far ahead of their peers that an average employee may feel that level of success is simply out of reach, or may not feel willing to exert the effort required to reach such a high level.

Imagine instead the impact you can have as a small business owner when your employees see that you are willing to do the small stuff.

Can you think of a time when your CEO wrote his own Christmas card or processed the mail? What would that say about the character of a leader - willing to "stoop" to the level of his subordinates and get his hands dirty? That is the type of behavior that has the power to motivate on a more permanent basis. That is the behavior that lets people know that it's the little things that count - and success is within reach.

True leading from the front doesn't necessarily involve heroic feats and brag sessions. Your employees will know you care about your company and their success when they see that you will never ask them to do something, no matter how seemingly insignificant, that you are not willing to do yourself.

Don't believe me? Try it and see what happens to morale...

Cory Thompson enjoys writing about topics of interest to entrepreneurs and small business owners. He is an MBA graduate from Weber State University and is currently working as a contracting officer at Hill Air Force Base in Roy, Utah.

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