Mindstate Motivation Blog

To Be Out Front You Must Be Behind

Ever wonder what a nebula is?  I did.  Oh…I felt I had an approximate idea what it was but really it was a very vague concept in my head.  You, too?

Let’s put the whole topic to rest once and for all.  The definition of the noun, nebula, direct from Merriam-Webster Dictionary is:  “a cloud of gas or dust in space that can sometimes be seen at night; a group of stars that are very far away and look like a bright cloud at night.”

Is it any wonder the related adjective, nebulous, contains a definition in the same source that reads:  “not clear; difficult to see, understand, describe, etc.”

Okay…I’ll stop being so nebulous ☺ as to my ultimate point in this post.

Picture this…a leader (female or male) who you view as metaphorically “a cloud of gas or dust” and see rarely but “sometimes at night” as s/he is leaving work.  This leader always seems so “very far away.”  What s/he thinks of you and your work is “not clear.”  It is “difficult to see, understand, describe” this leader’s sense of vision, mission and strategic plan.

The impact of such a leader on you and your associates is nebulous (there’s that word again) at best!

Leaders like that are the antitheses of those defined by Stephen R. Covey in his book, Principle-Centered Leadership.

The impact of being a lousy leader is negative from the top down right through the core of any business or organization and drops directly to the bottom-line.  Some people might say a recent good example of the impact and outcomes of such a leader is illustrated in the J.C. Penney fiasco.

You can read one view on the story and potential lessons here.  Suffice to say the retail icon struggled mightily just to stay in business and is still suffering some of the negative effects of a “difficult to see, understand, describe” kind of leader.

What follows are some ideas to help you put in focus what it takes to be a great leader who is seen as behind his/her team while being out front.

What?  You say you’re not currently a leader!  I beg to differ.  We are all leaders in one way or another.  At the very least, you are leading yourself through your life.  The role of leader can be defined in a myriad of other ways too but regardless of the role’s definition, the principles of great leadership are the same.

The most important principle is shown in the following hierarchical illustration:

Copyright 2015 Gary Greenfield

The key principle illustrated above is the leader is central to the outcomes of any business or organization.  Great leaders do not sit on top of a hierarchy…they are an integral part of it!

My definition of leadership is appropriate here to further make the point of the illustration.  “Great leaders are not out in front of the group with a great big title.  They are right in the middle of the group with a great big but disciplined heart.”

So, the leader is the super glue that connects an organization’s product/service, team and realized vision.  A leader cannot be as described in the metaphoric picture I painted in an earlier paragraph and even remotely fulfill that role.

There are ten considerations/characteristics for a leader to be an integral part of his/her organization.


As a leader, you must set priorities in your life and you must encourage your people to do the same.  You can do that any way you want but here’s my suggested order:

  • Your health
  • Your family
  • Your team effort
  • Organize the first two so you can take care of the third

Trust me!  Without good health and the wellbeing of your family, the results of your contributions to your team will be significantly compromised.  If that’s the case, you are not “integral” and the whole hierarchy of the organization begins to collapse.


You have to be willing to grab on to tough problems and develop solutions without procrastination.  Time isn’t money!  It’s an irreplaceable, precious asset each second of which you only get one chance to use wisely…ONE CHANCE!!


Leadership has been defined as the art of changing a group from what it is into what it ought to be.  With that in mind great leaders don’t think in absolute terms of perfection as being the only thing acceptable.  Rather they set and demand standards of excellence not perfection.

There’s nothing wrong with pursuing perfection, mind you.  However, defining perfect performance/results as the only way to succeed absolutely blows peoples trust in a leader.

The reality is perfect all the time is impossible because there wouldn’t be a reason to strive for something more since one had already achieved perfection.

Vince Lombardi said:  “Practice does not make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect.” Even he didn’t really believe that or he would have had no reason to continue striving to get better and better.


You must cultivate a sense of urgency in yourself and the people you are leading.  Help them to understand it is better to do something even if it isn’t exactly right, than do nothing.  Your team will crumble if one link weakens on this point.


Great leaders always pay attention to the details.  They strive to get good facts to better assure the making of good decisions.  They’ve learned that mistakes usually happen because time wasn’t taken up front.  That concept is reinforced by one of Murphy’s laws:  A shortcut is the longest distance between two points.

On the other hand, you can’t freeze yourself in inaction by trying to understand every detail.  There has to be a common sense balance.


Espousing and demonstrating commitment is the next characteristic to being integral in the hierarchy of your organization.

You are developing a team.  You have to get them thinking collectively about progressing through synergy.  They need to eat, sleep and breathe a sense they progress or slide together.


Don’t waste time worrying about things you cannot do anything about.  Recognize the impossible for what it is…IMPOSSIBLE…and move on.  Concentrate your energy on clearly defining and acting on what is possible.


Be willing to fail and teach others the same willingness.  Your people will be unable to innovate and create unless they know you are willing to accept some mistakes.  They should know you believe being wrong during a sincere effort to do right is not punishable.


You have to be willing to be tough but fair with people…doing so means setting standards and demanding performance is critical.  Over-compromising can be devastating.

You can’t allow the concept of independent thinking and creativity to become synonymous with anarchy.  It is impossible for anarchy and synergy to co-exist.


You can’t accomplish much as a team unless everyone is having fun.


I don’t think the above ten considerations/characteristics are nebulous.  I think they paint a clear picture of a leader who is fully integrated into the hierarchy of her/his organization and realizing the vision.

Crop of GNCC ShotWhat do you think?  Let’s talk and clarify anything that is nebulous in your mind.

Please share your thoughts by commenting below.  

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