To Create More Value, Leaders Should Not Always Lead


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Leaders are advised to lead, and lead from the front. However often this can be counterproductive and either destroy value or most certainly reduce value.

Let us give examples:

If you truly wish to have your people at the bottom of the pyramid or the frontline to really fire on all cylinders and take charge of the customer or their jobs, the leader should get out of the way and get these people to tell then what should be done and what they would like to do. Your role is to assure them of your support. True examples are the Customer Centric Circles, or Customer Circles for short (See my book Customer Value Investment. These Circles comprise of and are run by the front-line people to decide what to do for the customer. The leaders just supply support and listen. Listening and being supportive both create value.

These leaders just do not create a good business, they create other leaders who collectively build a better business.

Delegating makes you understand you cannot do everything yourself. Not leading sometimes teaches you to create other leaders to support you. This is a way or developing and coaching others. It lets you empower and enable people, while creating autonomy and value.

Consultants have to learn to do this. They cannot be seen as leaders but must effect the change they suggest and get people to buy in. They have to let others lead.

Examples at Godrej, Tatas, Coromandel etc. are shown in my books, Total Customer Value ManagementCustomer Value Investment. Do look them up.

The military is a classic example of when leaders do not lead. The military is a top-down organisation where soldiers and juniors are taught to be disciplined, to follow orders, not to question but to do.

During wars, often these troops are led by juniors, and not by the top and these people have to take charge and make things happen, not only to not being killed but to kill (to put it crudely). And they do this well and often come out with flying colours.

Thus, leaders must know when to let others run the show, while not giving up control. They must learn to listen, to keep out of the way, but their presence remains in their support.

Good leaders don’t lead; they let others lead. They can even become followers. And apart from being good followers they learn to create better followers who can create value.

Those followers that have to lead under these circumstances go from being powerless and ineffective to becoming effective. Take the example of an executive in administration who has got so used to following orders. He feels powerless. Making him lead causes him to take charge and become effective. This is a great way to change the thinking that change can only happen from the leader. People soon learn that they can be change makers and suggest and incorporate better way to do things. This is creating value, that is going beyond your expected performance and improving things. This means also going beyond functional thinking. People become leaders in their own sphere of influence and do not always wait to be told what to do.

People can examine their purpose and the purpose of the organisation. They learn to make connections to get the job done.

We are finding that many membership organisations do not have elected or other leaders, and no hierarchy. Each member can choose to take a leadership role is what interests him, otherwise they remain followers. Taking up the leadership mantle for a specific task and doing the hard work makes people better leaders. Leadership of this sort starts from the heart.

Sometimes people do not wish to lead and become leaders. This could be because they are afraid of losing interpersonal relations, or have an image risk. Also, some do not want to assume a blame risk. So, they prefer not to lead.

Leaders create value for such people by letting them lead under their guidance, and essentially by keeping out of the way. Leaders, then, create value for these people

Leaders should know when to lead from the front, and when to play second fiddle or be out of the way. Good leaders create value in many ways where they are not leading from the front.

Any comments?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Gautam Mahajan
Gautam Mahajan, President of Customer Value Foundation is the leading global leader in Customer Value Management. Mr Mahajan worked for a Fortune 50 company in the USA for 17 years and had hand-on experience in consulting, training of leaders, professionals, managers and CEOs from numerous MNCs and local conglomerates like Tata, Birla and Godrej groups. He is also the author of widely acclaimed books "Customer Value Investment: Formula for Sustained Business Success" and "Total Customer Value Management: Transforming Business Thinking." He is Founder Editor of the Journal of Creating Value ( and runs the global conference on Creating Value (


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