In my leadership course that I am taking, I am being presented with various philosophies of leadership in an attempt to describe the various purposes of each style. But as i read the descriptions and the traits, there are many similarities between many of the philosophies.
In an attempt at oversimplification, I propose that all leadership philosophies fall into one of two categories: Leading from the front and Leading from behind.
Leading From the Front
Audie Murphy, among others, popularized the phrase, "Lead from the front." To me, this form a leadership connotates an active leadership. Moving forward, pushing, developing and striving. This seems like an autocratic type of leader, who maneuvers and manipulates to get things done.
The Total Quality Management and Positional leadership philosophies seem to fit this definition. With TQM, if the leader is not active in supporting every part of the system, then the system will fail. In a position of authority, the leader mandates/dictates the direction of the organization. Neither position is bad, per se, so long as the personality of the leader enhances that style. Leaders like Vince Lombardi and General Patton are active leaders, up front and decisive. They lead the way. Follow or get out of the way.
Leading From Behind
Leading from behind was described by Nelson Mandela as,"It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur." This typifies a service or transformational form of leadership that distributes the power of the organization to the members of the organization. The leader provides the shared vision, and then supports and celebrates those doing the work, creating a shared leadership. The leader transforms from a leader of followers to a leader of leaders.
Without the reliance on a central figure head to destine success/failure of initiative, the organization leads tha initiative. Great leaders of this style would be Bill Belichik from the New England Patriots, who develops a team where the whole is more significant that the individual, and that the individual contributes to the whole. The superstar on the team is the team. Another leader is Bill Walsh, from the San Francisco 49ers. He has supported and developed his team by distributing leadership to his fellow coaches, and allow them the opportunity to succeed. You can see the successes of this style in the genealogy of coaches that have been successful after being part of his family.
There are times when these leadership styles are appropriate, but there are also times to adjust the style based on the situation. Good leaders know how to be flexible in their delivery and communicate their vision.