Learn to Lead From the Back of the Boat

How has your leadership style evolved?
– If you think about how you steer a boat, it’s always from the back, and I’ve moved toward the back of the boat, says Anne Berkowitch, co-founder and chief executive of SelectMinds, a social networking company, according to the New York Times today (see interview).

True, although I must point out that this mostly goes for small boats.  Even on medium sized boats, the driver’s seat is towards the middle of the boat. She has a point, though, leadership might be more about what you are able to see than whether all employees and customers actually see you. Visibility is slightly overrated, but only slightly.

What might be even wiser is to let others steer the boat while you walk around trying to figure out what is going on and make sure the destination is the correct one? Leadership from below,from my perspective, means being grounded, knowing where you are coming from and where you are going, and making use of whatever resources can be found in your immediate surroundings.

About Trond Arne Undheim, Ph.D.
Trond Arne Undheim is a futurist, speaker, entrepreneur and former Director of MIT Startup Exchange, based outside of Boston. He is the CEO and cofounder of Yegii, a search engine for industry professionals, providing collective intelligence. He holds a PhD on the future of work and artificial intelligence and cognition. He has accelerated four unicorns and helped launch over 50 startups. A former MIT Sloan School of Management Senior Lecturer, WPP & Oracle executive and EU National Expert, he writes for Fortune and Cognoscenti, and has been featured in print media and television. Undheim is the author of Pandemic Aftermath (2020), Disruption Games (2020) and Leadership From Below (2008). His next book is Future Tech (2021).

One Response to Learn to Lead From the Back of the Boat

  1. Human Being says:

    I have seen two generations of clothing style repeat it self. My children in teens wear 70s styles now. My parents wear 90s style. For my parents their style have evolved to reduce unnecessary hanging fabric to parallel formal wears. Now wondering about leadership styles, has it evolved? Gandhi was a leader who would lead from front. His visibility was very important. People idealized him where as Churchill was a doer-leading by example. These two leaders were from the similar period. And their leadership styles worked pretty well and the world remembers them for what they are!
    To me though, i am really struggling to point a finger and say this is the style of the era and that leadership style has really evolved. I have always found great leaders adopt themselves to the given situation and mould their leadership style to the given context. Whether it is Gandhi or Churchill, both did not intend to be leaders, but when they were given an opportunity they showed tremendous ability to match the strides. I will say a leader should actually be a good ‘Camelion’–a reptile variety that changes colour to suit its surroundings almost immediately. The more you are seen as one among, the more others are able to relate to yourself, the more you will be seen as a good leader-when you solve problems that people like yourself are facing.

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