In my Leadership 101 talk I really harp on the importance of leading from the front, particularly as you get higher up in an organization. I illustrate this with a story of the battle of the Somme in France in World War I. The allied generals were so far from the front they didn’t know about flooding which made it impossible to cross the battlefield in any effective manner. Tens of thousands of casualties resulted in the first day of what turned in to a long campaign. All because the generals lead from the rear, where the environment was completely different.
I just don’t understand “leaders” of an organization who don’t take the time to learn the details of the environment their organizations operate in. How can you lead if you don’t know your environment, your clients, your company, or your people?
The Dayton Daily news had a great article in its Sunday paper on executives and upper level management at Miami Valley Hospital here in Dayton who are terrifically engaged and at the front. Leaders there do four hours of “rounds” a week at the hospital – as doctors do rounds to visit their patients, executives and management do rounds to visit their workers. They also interact with their customers – the hospital’s patients.
This is a terrific practice that keeps the hospital’s leadership in touch with the pulse of their workers and the hospital’s patients. The article, plus its two companions here and here, highlight the great benefits the entire hospital is seeing because of these policies.
Making this sort of effort ensures leaders understand the environment their people are working in. Leading from the front ensures leaders understand the environment the company creates for its customers. Leading from the front ensures leaders are keeping open lines of communication to workers and customers, and are seeing things about their company first hand.
It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a huge company of 70,000, a small company of 150, or a team of three. You’re jeopardizing your success if you’re not consistently and frequently getting out to interact with clients and workers.
Lead from the front. The benefits are amazing.