Leading From Behind

Thinking out loud…”Leading from behind” has been criticized as a baseless leadership style by many who contend that leadership is only possible when the person leading is in front and knows all, e.g. Benghazi or “Fast and Furious.” Front and center leadership is militaristic in style and so is widely touted as a preferred form of leadership by the many who have been in the armed forces. It assumes the leader knows all or is to be informed of all and is responsible for all under his/her leadership and must be able to recount the details of failure or success as if they were endowed with superhuman qualities. Leading from behind has been criticized by the right wing press as if it were a dysfunctional form of leadership. If so, the Scriptures would need to be rewritten. “…a phrase I’ve borrowed from none other than Nelson Mandela. In his autobiography, Mandela equated a great leader with a shepherd: ‘He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.’” –Linda Hill in the Harvard Business Review, May 5, 2010. In this case the Shepherd is alleged to know all, having superhuman qualities. 

The illustration cited above serves as a metaphor for what or who a leader can be. If we take any qualities of personhood from Scripture this one surely should be included as a model for the person as leader. Leading from behind is what any leader can do while facilitating the possibility for persons to test their abilities and ideas with the leader’s support. Granted, we did not elect a pastor as President. But we did elect a person who prefers to lead from behind. A biblical model tweaked for Presidential leadership seems appropriate.

Written during the Obama administration


About Ed Anderson

I am "non-religious", not an atheist as some suppose, since after reading what I have written many wonder if I believe in "God", I just don't have a name for the concept, "God", nor do I have an origination story or theological mystery tour to stretch your faith. (I have no proof of what I believe and I wonder if my belief in "God" is supportable as I have increasing doubts.) I just can't accept an inflexible point of view that says, "I know what you need, and I know what you should know and here it is, you can have it too." Religionists present yet another obstacle to finding "truth" as they claim to have succeeded exclusively in finding it. Having been a part of the religious scene for years it is clear to me how easily duped we are to believe in something we have no proof of, has caused an abundance of divisions, and "territorialized" people into believers and non-believers. Furthermore, my belief in "God" equates to the larger perspective which includes an awareness of "God" in everything. I speculate at times whether or not consciousness is "God" So, my belief in "God" does not necessarily match up to the Christian/Judaeo tradition of a being existing somewhere in the beyond or in one's "heart". If there is a "God" he/she/it could be anywhere and in anything. Though I believe in God, it is not a belief in the God of Scripture. Too many “holes” in Scripture to satisfy my inquiring mind. It may indeed point me in the right direction but I find it not only unreliable but full of plagiaristic thought and re-writing of some of history’s interesting solutions. I much prefer to trust the minds of men and women who conjecture on the basis of what we now know of our universe than those men and women who trust the minds of ancient spiritual guides who, in turn, contributed to a book allegedly “inspired” by God. It is all unprovable, either side of this argument, but I prefer to invest most of my thinking in current ideas rather than those that show little support in logic. Do I hear an "Amen"? View all posts by Ed Anderson

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