Where should you lead from? The front? The back? Or the side? Answer: A Fourth Option

John Maeda
6 min readAug 2, 2022
Post-it illustration on Leadership by John Maeda

When leading where your teams are going, you also need to know whether they’re following.

—A Fourth Option for leaders to take

As a “maker” of things, I’ve never been a “leading from the front” kind of person and more of a “leading by example” one. But over time I learned that the unfortunate truth of using the latter approach is that it doesn’t work too well. That fact runs counter to the many heroic parables that we get taught when we’re kids. It’s true, though. Because maybe YOU fully understand the example you’re setting. But everyone else doesn’t. So where’s the leadership in all of that?

So you have three options:

  1. Lead from the front
  2. Lead from the back
  3. Lead from the side

Let’s break these down in detail.

Leading from the front wins you medals

“Follow me!”



John Maeda

John Maeda: Technologist and product experience leader that bridges business, engineering, design via working inclusively. Currently VP Design and A.I. at MSFT.