7 Characteristics of the Backside of Leadership

One critical part of leadership is what I like to call the “backside of leadership.”

It’s the part that is unseen. Or unknown at the time. It’s the unspoken, unclear, has-to-be-tested side of leadership.

So critical.

Years ago I had a leader I could never predict. One day everything was wonderful and the next day nothing was right. It was frustrating. I could never read this leader and whether or not he was happy.

Some have probably accused me of this at times. Probably all of us.

Leading well means sometimes what a leader does when the team’s back is turned is more important than what they do in the team’s presence. When they don’t know what the leader is thinking or how he or she will respond — they can still trust the leader.

The backside of good leadership means a leader does what is best for the team and the organization — not for his or her personal gain — regardless of who gets credit. 

Even if no one saw it coming.

That’s the backside of leadership.

Still trying to understand what I mean?

Here are 7 characteristics of the backside of good leadership:

Protects you.

When critics rise against you or your work a great leader stands behind you. Better yet, they stand in front of you to take the first bullet. They are predictable and consistent with their support. 

Won’t back you in a corner.

Good leaders don’t hold you accountable for unreasonable expectations, especially when you didn’t know what the expectations were. They make sure you have the resources you need. They never put you on the spot. They make sure the team operates with a plan.

Forgives easily.

You gain good favor quickly after you make a mistake under a good leader. They extend grace knowing the greatest lessons in life are learned through failure. And, the investment made in people when they fall often yields the greatest return.

Empowers you.

The leader doesn’t have to know everything you do and every decision you make — before you make it. They are okay with the unknown. They invest trust in you. They empower you to make decisions without their direct oversight.

Invests in others.

The team receives more from the leader than the leader takes. No one feels used or like they’re building an empire for the leader. Rewards are shared and celebrated together.

Never stabs you in the back.

People don’t feel threatened in their position. They know the leader can hold a confidence and will never say one thing to one person and something else to another.


Everyone has been in a situation waiting for a leader to make a decision. It can be a frustrating experience. Impatience can rise. Good leaders are responsive. They don’t make people come to their own conclusions. They communicate in a timely manner. 

The backside of leadership. Have you thought about how you lead on the backside — when no one knows what to expect. 

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19 thoughts on “7 Characteristics of the Backside of Leadership

  1. When great leaders do the things you mentioned it tends to create leaders who go and do likewise, this process creates good leaders. Keep the great posts coming.

  2. "THE GUARDS' REPORT"__Nothing that I can Leave to my Congragation rather than Jesus Christ The Resurrected One__"When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan,(They Gave the Soldiers a Large Sum of Money) telling them, "You are to say,His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep

  3. Love it, Ron! How about #8 – get's off his backside and sets the example for the rest of the team by doing real work that enables everyone else to be more productive. Thanks, Bret

  4. "I got your back!" Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron)says those words to Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) in "Blind Side", setting the tone for the movie. Not only should the leader say those words (and mean them) to his team, but the team should also know that of his team. Otherwise they all run the risk of being "blind-sided".

  5. Two thoughts come to mind: 1) Integrity is an essential leadership quality requirement. It should also be a part of every person's life. 2) Loving others as oneself should inspire a leader to protect those he or she leads and build them up.