I recently starting road biking again. For the past 6 months I have biked with many different groups: a ladies group on Sunday mornings, a group of strangers biking through France, etc. It has been an interesting lesson in leadership to watch how different individuals “lead” a bike ride. There are those that think they always need to be first to lead the group…. But we lose people at turns, and can’t evaluate how the group is doing. The best leaders stop and wait for the group at key junctures and occasionally ride with bikers in the middle and the back of the pack to evaluate if the group needs a break or to slow the pace.
I realized it is similar in a business setting.
While I need to set a direction for my team to drive everyone forward, I would be a terrible manager if I only led from the front. I try to share team members responsibilities and understand the day to day challenges they are facing, allowing me to assess strengths and weaknesses of individual members. This is invaluable insight as I assign out responsibilities and mentor folks. We are much more successful at accomplishing goals because I “lead” the team by occasionally working alongside them.
A similar philosophy exists with competition. I work at Domo, an enterprise software company. We are in a very competitive space. And our product is light years ahead of the competition. As a marketer, I could not wait to trumpet our product virtues in the marketplace. But, our CEO wisely decided to keep the product under wraps for the time being. At first, I thought: “how can we lead with out being out front?” But, it has been a fun challenge to create buzz while in “stealth mode”. And, I actually think it has been an asset at times in our sales cycle. We “nurture” leads along with thought leadership materials – only when they are ready to have a real conversation about a solution do we show the Domo product. Domo is “leading” the marketplace in many ways with out being out front in a traditional sense.