While we were hiking on the trails behind my house, my daughter announced from behind after she insisted we walked in front of her, "I might be in the back but I'm still the leader."
As a leadership development junkie, I excitedly encouraged her, "that's true, you don't need to be in front to be the leader!"
And it was true, she was leading us from behind the entire time we were on that walk.
There are a lot of myths about leadership. A common one is that leaders need to be charismatic, outgoing, and extroverted. Another common myth is that leaders must be in a position of power. Both of these myths lead to the misconception that a leader needs to be out front, with their followers trailing behind them like lemmings rushing to the sea!
Leadership isn't about position.
Leadership is about vision and influence.
A leader has a vision for where the collective needs to go and is able to influence others to aspire toward co-creating that vision together. Leaders don't give orders, they get buy-in that results in committed, collective action.
I work with emerging leaders that are leading without authority. They are not in a position of power and authority (yet). At the same time, they have a vision for creating positive change that they want to champion. Because they are not in a position of power, their biggest hurdle is often getting people to work with them instead of against them.
Leading from behind is less about forcing, pushing, or insisting. Leading from behind is offering an invitation. Like my daughter you're saying, come on a walk with me and explore this natural area, perhaps we'll blow dandelion seeds or throw rocks in the water or look for the perfect stick that we can use to fly through the wild. The options for how the vision was executed were endless.
As long as we were exploring and engaging in our surroundings with curiosity and openness, we were staying true to following our leader's vision. After all, my daughter didn't want to just go on a walk in the woods, she wanted to have an adventure! And these days, an imaginative adventure in the woods is a nice break from reality, invitation accepted.
Are you leading without authority? What invitation are you offering others to engage with your vision for positive change?