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Leading from the front or from behind?


Quite often while doing a walking mentorship program I think about the similarities between leading a group of backpackers versus leading a group of executives in a company. Every journey I go through I collect an additional insight which I share with you here.

It is important to get to know each person, the rhythm, the ability to fasten or slow down the pace, the capacity to handle the weight of the backpack, the posture walking in more challenging paths and the interaction with other members. At the same time, I also need to focus on the group dynamics, on the methodology I use, the daily briefings and the daily exercises, the walking companion rotation, the rest time stops, water refilling opportunities, weather sudden changes and of course to keep everyone on the right track.

The level of complexity we face everyday influences directly the leadership style. It also reminds me of many situations I have faced over the years in business and more recently in the brave new world of Startups.

I remember to hear frequently that you should always lead by example (from the front), good leaders must walk the talk, becoming a person others More recently, Nelson Mandela popularised the concept of leading from behind, claiming that the leader is like a shepherd, harnessing people’s collective genius.

The more I walk, the more I believe this is not an either or decision but rather a transitional act from one form to the next as your team members become ready to lead and as the challenge ahead demands different dynamics from each person and from the whole group. Often during the same day, I switch from walking in the front of the group, to be in the middle or in the back.

Leading, in my opinion, is essentially the capacity to reinforce a shared purpose, bringing people together and inspiring each individual to continuously develop is best version. 

I also believe the corporate world could learn a thing or two from the Walking Mentorship, for example;

Walking – If the road is well-marked, you should give total “freedom” that each person can walk at their own pace. It will be the best way to enjoy the journey and keep giving the very best of yourself.

Corporate – How many times management prefers to see everyone lining up like a kindergarten on the way to school, levelling the speed to an average that usually does not fit anyone.


Walking – If the meeting point in the end of every day is clear, no one will get lost, but instead feel engaged to find the best solutions to arrive safe, even if it means more quilometres.

Corporate – Companies want to innovate (actually they die slowly without innovation) but most times the idea of having internal people experimenting makes management freak out or go out on a firing spree.


Walking – If closing the group (behind that person no one walks) is a rotating role, everyone will have the chance to understand clearly the different rhythms and will learn to care and respect them.

Corporate – How many times people rotate their role inside an organisation (even if just for a couple of days)? The best way to understand others is to walk in their shoes, feel their pains and desires.


Walking – Resources are the ones we have inside our backpacks, not more not less, we have to carry them and manage them to last until we can replenish water and food. There is no stronger reality than this.     

Corporate – How many teams and individuals get the chance to manage (100%) their own budgets and run their activity without having to request multilevel approvals from people not even connected with the business?


The corporate world can learn a thing or two from the Walking Mentorship!

The program is an introspective journey combining the physical challenge of walking remarkable routes like the Camino of Santiago in Spain or the Via Francigena in the Alps with a methodology to help you revise who you are now, where you want to go next and how you will go there.

You are still on time to join our last program of 2017 (15 October/22 October). Learn more here.

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