I have an extraordinary friend I often secretly call “Superwoman.” That’s because at 65 years old, she has most active lifestyle of anyone I know. She ziplines, kayaks, bikes, hikes and canoes, rain or shine, sleet or snow, 52 weeks of the year. She heads several fitness groups in her area and is on a trail, in a river or up a tree every weekend without fail. That’s my idea of a real leader.

Her idea of a real leader, on the other hand, is her “sweep.” That’s the lady who’s stationed at the very end of the queue of hikers, bikers and kayakers. She’s assigned to make sure that no one falls behind, gets hurt or sick without receiving immediate aid, or gets lost. This lady leads from behind.

As a rule, nobody looks back over their shoulder to find a leader. The word “leader” suggests an up-front-and-center presence. Our culture idolizes the take-no-prisoners, ride-or-die hero who takes the lead and is willing to win no matter what the cost.

This sounds and looks heroic, but it’s not always healthy or practical. Many a road to the top is littered with bodies that were trampled underfoot by the guy who kept his eyes on the prize and treated everyone else like road-kill.

The Darwinian notion that only the fittest survive has inspired an entire genre of television entertainment. The success of programs like Weakest Link, Survivor, British chef Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and others is a matter of exploiting people’s dysfunctions. Anyone who can’t stand the heat is compelled to remain long enough to be burned to a crisp before mercifully being released as a loser. I call it “bully-vision.”

Nobody wants to be a loser. But is doing whatever it takes to avoid losing really worth dehumanizing another person? The conviction of a true leader is that the parts are as important as the whole. In a corporate setting, a team leader will assess the assets of each team member and strive to capitalize on their strengths without denigrating them because of their weaknesses.

Ruthless leaders pull brutally. Good leaders know how to push gently. Narcissistic leaders demand to be out in front at all times. True leaders recognize that although there is an end-game, someone has to be willing to follow up. Making their colleagues willing to follow may mean hanging back, bringing up the rear in order for the whole team to get ahead.

Author's Bio: 

Rob Jackson is a member of the National Speaker's Association and has served as President and Chairman on several Executive Leadership boards.

In addition to being a Certified DiSC Trainer, Rob has logged hundreds of instructional classroom hours. He is the author of Campfire Leadership, which explores effective leadership from a personality perspective.

As President of Magnovo Training Group, Rob's goal is to inspire significant positive change in communities and companies. For more information please visit www.magnovo.com