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