Gaining Perspective from the Middle Seat: How Leaders Can Benefit from Following for a Change

Leaders, have you experienced the delight of following?

There is no question I like to lead – being out in front, open space around me, finding the path and inviting others to follow. In rowing, I’m often the rower who sits in front and sets the rhythm, pacing the whole boat.

This past outing, I took a seat in the middle of the boat, and it completely changed my perspective.

What was different?

Being able to observe.

From the middle seat, I had a clearer view of what was happening in the rest of the boat. It was easier to see what could be done better or differently.

Recently, one of my coaching clients, a CEO, had the chance to sit in on and not manage their own leadership meeting. They gained a whole new understanding about their team and the team dynamics.

Being able to focus.

Since I didn’t have to set the pace, I could concentrate on following and performing technically as well as I could.

For a leader, not leading the meeting is an opportunity to notice how you are showing up – inside and outside. 
Are you breathing? 
What makes you tense up? 
What is the tone of your voice?  
It’s easier to be aware when you have fewer roles to play.

Being more connected

Following the person in front of me, I felt more in touch with my teammates, part of the chain of sensory and emotional signals moving up and down the boat.

One of the dangers of leadership is being isolated and missing critical cues. Literally or virtually “moving around” keeps relationships and perspectives fresh.

Leaders, try this: take a different seat, be a follower, and see what you notice.

It may help you move forward even better together. Like the boat did.

Leave a Comment