“To lead you must follow.” That statement seems a little oxymoronic, I know. After all, to lead denotes being out in front and to follow denotes traveling behind someone or something. So how can someone that travels behind someone or something be a leader?
Well, look at the picture above. What do you see? I see what appears to be a mother bird teaching her offspring to fly. I also see the baby bird out in front with the mother bird following close behind. The mother birds knows that her offspring must learn to fly and she lags behind to swoop in and rescue just in case something goes wrong. She knows she does not need to be in the lead to teach. While the baby bird is aware of her presence, being out in front helps it build confidence in its abilities to fly solo. One day it too will follow to lead its own offspring.
The same is true of great leaders. Great leaders know it is just as important to stand behind their followers as it is to stand out in front. From behind you can not only observe what may go wrong, but you also have the pleasure of seeing growth and confidence as things go right. I have often heard that great leaders create their replacements. What better way to do so than to step back which gives others the opportunity to step up, fly solo in hopes of following to lead their own future leaders one day.