You certainly know the famous drawing that contrasts leaders and bosses. While the boss commands from the command stand (i.e. his desk), the leader leads by going first (and eating last).
But the most effective leaders I’ve met don’t actually lead like this. They understand that they often aren’t the smartest, bravest, or toughest person in the team. Which is why they leave these spots to those who are. Rather than leading the way, they light the path so that the team moves in the same direction with a collective effort – as a group … and more decisive than anyone could on their own.
It’s a third way that’s both unlike a boss who could always rely on their authority to force a decision, no need to justify anything (“We go where I say we go”). And also unlike a leader who leads the way who could always rely on their ambition and confidence, no need to justify anything (“We go where I go”).
A leader who lights the path is different. They make it obvious how choices are made and then they trust the team with making these choices. Which means that they do need to justify where the team’s headed, why it’s gotta be there, and why it’s gotta be us (“We go where it makes most sense to go”).
Their tools are empathy, truth, and trust. They listen, they ask questions, and they tap into the brilliance of everyone on the team.
Which shifts are you observing in leadership?