Welcome to the belivernomics blog


I will try my best to update this webpage with  thought provoking and interesting content, as often as I can.  Please feel free to leave comments as  there is much that can be learnt from the sharing of ideas.

By pa360, Dec 30 2016 08:56PM

People often talk about leading from the front. In fact it is probably the best known and certainly the most visible form of leadership. In my mind, the classic image of leading from the front is the First World War, where soldiers would leap up out of their trenches and charge across battlefields to engage the enemy in acts of extraordinary courage and astonishing bravery.

But what about leading from the back ie: leading through others? Are there ever times when it is helpful for a leader to be less visible or even invisible? Yes, very much so. Indeed, leading from the back is the only viable way to facilitate the empowerment of people. It simply cannot be achieved any other way.

So how and when does leading from the back work and what are the conditions under which such an arrangement might achieve a successful outcome. Set out below are the eight ways to lead effectively from the back.

1. give people permission to act - the importance of permission to act is that it creates a controlled environment and sets the boundary and context within which activity can be planned, conducted and sanctioned. The alternative to boundaries is unstructured activity, rules made up on the hoof and lack of accountability. When leading from the back, boundaries are especially important because those whom you empower must clearly understand the authority with which they have to act and the point at which authority for further action must be sought.

2. give people permission to fail - one of the hardest things to do in leadership is to accept your own failure, how much more to be accountable for the failure of others. Yet, you simply cannot lead effectively from the back unless you accept that you must empower others with permission to fail. Let’s be real here, if you give people the permission to act on your behalf, you must also give them permission to fail on your behalf. As long as those whom you empower operate within the delegated permission to act, you must be prepared to accept the consequences of their actions.

3. deploy visible invisibility - the essence of leading from the back is that you are leading through others and therefore whilst you are not physically in the room, you are none-the-less present through those who represent and are accountable to you. The measure of a truly great leader is that their presence is felt even when they are not physically there. To lead from the back, you cannot be physically present otherwise once people catch sight of you, they will defer to you, which is undermining of those whose leadership capabilities you are trying to develop.

4. give people the freedom to think - few things are as disempowering as repressing peoples freedom to think and express their views. Clearly there are limitations to this and I am not referring to those who use their freedoms to act outside established norms of behaviour and practice. Rather, I am referring to the value placed on involving people in the decision-making process that empowers them to think for themselves and solve their own problems. To lead from the back, you must accept that you do not know all the answers. By doing so you will cultivate collective accountability and enable to find solutions whether or not you are in the room.

5. trust yourself to trust others - like any arrangement involving people, successfully leading from the back must be based on trust. Without trust, permission to act or fail cannot be granted, boundaries cannot be established and people cannot be enabled to demonstrate their leadership capabilities. In my experience trust is a push and pull, in that it must be earned as well as extended. Asking people to take on roles for which they are unsuited is an abuse of trust. However, a good leader who knows the capabilities of their people, ought to be able to create the right environment for potential leaders to step forward.

6. motivate effectively - there will undoubtedly be times when those who represent you are not performing well or complacency sets in or any one of a number of other issues occur that require urgent attention. At such times, you need to have a range of motivational tools to deploy. I have often found that to generate energy and enthusiasm you must find out what motivates people (and each person may be different). For some it may be your ability to spot the positives in a sea of negatives and for others it may be the reassurance that you will step forward and take responsibility if things go wrong. However, if all else fails you must be ready to deploy tough love and strong words.

7. do not be threatened by the success of others - this is a very serious point. I have known leaders who choose not to empower others into leadership for fear that they may be recognised and rewards for their efforts. Here’s the rub, petty jealousy kills leadership development. Furthermore, anyone in such a position, who holds those kinds of views should seriously question whether they have chosen the right vocation. It bears reminding that the role and purpose of leadership is not lordship, it is service – specifically the empowerment of others.

8. maintain standards - in every endeavour where there is a stated objective, there must also be some way of describing or defining what success looks like. In other words what sort of behaviours do you want to see demonstrated, how long do you want to be hand-holding before those who you are seeking to empower, take off on their own? As I often say, if you do not know what success looks like you will not know it when you see it, nor will you be able to use knowledge gained from it to develop capabilities and maintain standards.

If your goal is to empower your organisation, achieve culture change and deliver sustainable results, then leading from the back is the way to do it. In simple terms, you achieve sustainability not through your own efforts but rather through the efforts of others. Therefore any organisational design and development strategy that doesn’t have the empowerment of people at its heart, is probably destined for the dusty top shelf, just like its predecessors.

By pa360, Mar 8 2015 10:14AM

Aspiration and a clear vision are crucial to improvement. After all, if you don't know what you want to achieve, how will you be able to organise your effort and those of others in order to achieve it? And if you cannot achieve it, then you will not improve it. Aspiration is very similar, but not quite the same as a vision. I once read a very simplistic definition of the two, which described aspiration as what we want to achieve and vision as how we want to achieve it.

Once you know what you want to achieve (aspiration) and have a broad idea of how you want to achieve it (vision) you actually need to educate people to want to care about it (inspire), equip them to act upon it (empower) and encourage them to do something about it (transform). Here, leaders play a unique and critical role. Set out below are the three powerful ways that leaders can inspire, empower and transform.

1. Inspiration

The wonderful thing about aspiration and vision is that once they come together they often create a third thing which is inspiration. I often think of inspiration as being like the explosion that occurs when a source of combustion (aspiration) is brought into contact with a source of ignition (vision). It is essentially the "kaboom" effect that helps us to keep going even in the most adverse of conditions and to come up with unique solutions to the most complex of problems. But what is the role of the leader in inspiring others? Fundamentally, leaders inspire others by 'educating' and influencing them through the passion of their arguments, the strength of their convictions and the power of their example. If inspiration is the ability to get others to share your passion, then the full of extent of what you see in others, is likely to be a reflection of what they see in you.

2. Empowerment

As noted, inspiration is useful because it empowers. To be empowered is to be enabled, strengthened and fortified. Empowerment is more than just the knowledge and understanding of how something is to be done, it is also having the confidence to do it. An empowered person is therefore able to navigate their way around seemingly insurmountable obstacles and sees every new challenge (no matter how daunting) as an opportunity. In a nutshell an empowered person can do all that a disempowered person cannot do. Here, leaders play a critical role in empowering others. An effective leader understands that empowerment is the authority to act and the authority to act is more than a verbal conferment, but rather the practical tools such as choice, autonomy and the capacity for disciplined risk taking.

3. Transformation

So far we have dealt with the unique relationship between inspiration and empowerment, but what about transformation? Well my recent blog 'making transformation happen' is entirely devoted to that subject and I would encourage you read it as a companion blog to this. But essentially, the purpose and effect of transformation is to bring about change so fundamental, that a situation becomes unrecognisable to what it was before. Through transformation, we don't just create new beginnings, we create new possibilities, new opportunities and new futures. Leaders in particular, play a critical role in the transformation process. An effective leader understands that transformation is brought about by disciplined stewardship. The image to hold in your mind is that of a gardener who thoughtfully, carefully and steadfastly nurtures seedlings to the point where they eventually mature and flower. Transformation simply speaks to the quality of leadership and stewardship that brings it about and makes it possible.

Bringing about change can often be a long, painstaking and challenging process. To get things moving, you need to have an aspiration and a clear vision. However, to get things done you need capable leaders with the leadership qualities to inspire and empower others. This will help to transform your circumstances in a way that will bring about the change that you desire and deliver the results that you want.

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