The True Meaning of Leading from Behind

Every now and again, you run across something that just gets to you… it really sticks. Whether it be a poem, motivational quote, a book, or maybe a story of business success, often times, these bits of inspiration stay with us and help keep us entrepreneurs moving forward.

Today, while scrolling through Facebook (as us Millennials like to do), I ran across an image of a traveling wolf pack. At first, I thought the image and post was a bit odd. But then, when I clicked to read more and read the story and meaning behind the image, it resonated with me. And although I’ve heard of similar analogies, the photo really brings the point of “leadership” home, so I wanted to share.

A group of wolves: The three in front (red circle) are old and sick. They walk in front to set the pace of the running group to ensure they get don’t left behind because more than likely, if an ambush happened, they would be sacrificed. The next five (yellow box) are the strongest and best of the pack. They are tasked with the job of protecting the front of the pack if there is an attack. Naturally, the pack in the middle are always protected from any attack. The last (almost) five behind them (green square) are also among the strongest and best; they are tasked with the job of protecting the back of the pack if there is an attack. The last one wolf pictured (blue arrow) is the LEADER. He ensures that no one is left behind. He keeps the pack unified and on the same path. He is always ready to run in any direction to protect and serve as the ‘bodyguard’ to the entire group. 

It’s a great story, right? But, how does it relate to business?

If you think about the qualities and characteristics of the Alpha wolf, you would think of confidence, loyalty, trusted, strong, and knowledgeable of the pack. Right?

Those characteristics remind some of a CEO of a business. But is that entirely true?

Unlike the wolf who has so much confidence in his ability to fight off a “disruptor” during an attack and who would sacrifice everything to protect his pack, not every CEO has wolf like traits.

In larger corporations, many questions whether or not their CEO (or C-Suite) have what it takes to fend off unexpected disruptive attacks. And as we’ve seen from many top C-Suite members, often times when the going gets tough, they cash out before they’re “eaten alive.” However, owning a small business is a bit different. Your employees tend to be like family. Often times, many business owners become great friends with many of their customers.

So, to tie this all together… are you considered to be a trusted Alpha? Are you a strong leader? Would you protect your pack at all costs?

Leadership isn’t about being the most visible, the loudest, or even the highest earner. Leadership is truly about leading from behind. Real leaders are the types who want to share their success rather than bask in the glory, and those who when things go wrong, take ownership and take the fall to ensure their team is taken care of. As I always like to say, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

Just some food for thought. Maybe this story will resonate with you as much as it does me and help you keep your pack unified and on the same path.

Want a more accurate version of wolf pack behavior? CLICK HERE

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  1. Chip Hanson November 8, 2019 at 12:42

    The wolf analogy is a great sentiment, so I’m not knocking the intent. But it’s not true.

    This photograph was taken by Chadden Hunter and is featured in a 2011 BBC documentary, Frozen Planet. The BBC script contains the following description of the photo:

    “A massive pack of 25 timberwolves hunting bison on the Arctic circle in northern Canada. In mid-winter in Wood Buffalo National Park temperatures hover around -40°C. The wolf pack, led by the alpha female, travel single-file through the deep snow to save energy. The size of the pack is a sign of how rich their prey base is during winter when the bison are more restricted by poor feeding and deep snow. The wolf packs in this National Park are the only wolves in the world that specialize in hunting bison ten times their size. They have grown to be the largest and most powerful wolves on earth.”

    1. ashley.panter December 25, 2019 at 18:38

      Correct. It’s the sentiment and the meaning of the story that is most important. That’s why at the end of the article, I included “Want a more accurate version of wolf pack behavior?” with a link to information you just shared =).

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