The best leaders lead from the front, not the back

This past weekend I had two conversations regarding the state of public education in the state in which I live. Okay, they were more muted down diatribes delivered by yours truly than they were conversations, but I had a captive audience and I just couldn't help myself.

If you are resident of the great state of North Carolina, then you know the rough state of affairs that our public schools and teachers are facing. With four children of my own in public schools, I share your concerns. And as one who tries so hard not to be overly political with issues - I call them as I see them and am a proud registered Independent - it's hard not to get frustrated with the perceived lack of concern for our public schools from those in Raleigh whom we all had a hand in electing. Besides, I've yet to see a legislator sitting in a classroom in my community striving to understand exactly what is going on before he or she casts their next vote.

It gets frustrating to see a revolving door of seemingly qualified school leaders that get the boot when the least bit of trouble comes along. It seems as if those who hold the keys to power like to knee jerk and replace superintendents and principals every other year when test scores or performance standards aren't met.

This confuses me because I don't know one principal who has the time or ability to sit down with each individual student and personally tutor them and monitor their progress. Yes, that is where the teachers come in, and the ones that I know do the best they can to ensure that students will succeed. But let's be honest - when our teachers have to go to their second job of the day as soon as the final bell rings, that tells us that not only do they not have the proper amount of time in a given day to invest in the students as they would like, they also aren't paid enough to do the work that otherwise they would gladly do. At some point parents come into play in this whole equation, yet their influence is often not even mentioned when it comes to the success or failing of our students.

What am I getting at here? Am I about to go off on a political rant? No, not even close.

My point is that when we see any system in our world - whether education, business, non-profit, etc. - in action, we should do our best to learn from what we see. Leadership is such a broad subject to tackle and I don't pretend to be an expert on all things leadership. But I know what I see and I am able to discern the good leaders from the bad ones in hope that I will be considered one of the former.

So here is my point: The best leaders are those who lead from the front, not the back.

It is so easy to call the shots sitting in a cushy chair behind a glass window. That's what a manager does. But leaders are those who leave the office and get on the ground level with their employees, choosing to treat them as co-workers and not hired hands. Leaders steer the car. Managers are back seat drivers.

As one who has been entrusted with overseeing people, I never want to be that guy who points his finger and tells people what to do without actually being there with them to do it. The greatest example I have ever seen of this was Jesus. He recruited twelve men to minister with Him and gave each of them certain tasks to perform. And when He sent them out on their own, He didn't retreat to the casa and wait for them to come back. Instead, He stayed in the field with them so that He could observe their progress and celebrate their successes with them.

Jesus never led from the back and we shouldn't either. As the ultimate leader, Jesus did what we could not do - He gave His life so that we could know God. But from this we understand just how important it is that we lead from the front, modeling the same style of servant leadership that He mastered. And we do so not to be promoted or have a banquet in our honor, but rather so that we can see others around us flourish as they are striving to reach their God-given potential. When others around you succeed, we all win.

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