I’ve always believed that the truest and most effective form of leadership is leading from the front. I have colleagues that provide an example of this every day. When you’re in the “trenches” working shoulder to shoulder with your employees, you send a powerful message. As a leader, you are publicly broadcasting that any task isn’t beneath you.
To be sure, business leaders can learn a lot from great military commanders. An article from Fast Company—Leading From The Front Lines—states, “The leaders who were most successful in battle are also those who earned the admiration and loyalty of their troops. In business, as in war, the best leaders are those who lead from the front lines—who commit themselves fully to the mission of the company, and work alongside team members toward the common goal.”
Younger employees, in particular, are looking for role models to emulate. According to Fast Company, “When you lead a company, every single employee queues off what you do. Employees who are inspired by their company’s leadership and values will get in the trenches and get the job done.”
Sun Tzu, in the Art of War, observes, “Look upon (your soldiers) as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”
When leaders are in the trenches with employees, they are setting examples. Indeed, “The best leaders in history are those who realize how motivating it is to people under their command when they roll up their sleeves and jump in to get the job done.”
Yes, actions are louder than words. I believe every leader should know the jobs of the employees they lead. When employees know their bosses will happily work side-by-side with them, they soon realize that the oft-repeated phrase, “All hands on deck,” really does mean ALL hands. Actions are everything.
The mantra, “All hands” is blind to titles and organization charts no matter where you work. As one inspirational leader once remarked:
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”
– General Douglas MacArthur
Leading from the front also means you recognize your team members when they perform beyond what you expect. Acknowledge uncommon performance with citations and other creative awards. Thank them for their contributions and sacrifice. For these are the most admirable and infectious of character traits.
For additional reading on leading from the front lines, see the entire article on the Fast Company website: Leading from the Front Lines.