I’m reading an amazing book right now by Ryan Holiday called “Ego is The Enemy” and am truly enjoying it. Ryan brings a concept up in the book about being an ‘anteambulo’, which is a word from classic Latin. It’s a noun that means “walk in front of”. In Roman history it meant to walk in front of to clear the way for a leader. I love this concept. In his book Ryan references examples of what clearing the path for someone else looks like and what it could look like.
As I have been thinking this concept through this morning it has opened up some interesting insights into my own journey as a leader, and to the leaders I have emulated and studied under over the years, and a few leaders I’d rather forget. At the heart of it Anteambulo Leadership was probably the original version of Servant Leadership that we all hear so much about today. Even with the buzzword it has become, there seems to be a disconnect with Servant Leadership and what it really means.
As we usher in the next generation of leaders we need to model what being an anteambulo actually looks like. And we could all use a lesson in what it looks like before we teach it. I think if we’re honest we’ve all found ourselves in the camp of celebrating our successes, accomplishments, legacy, etc. and have inflated our sense of self-worth. All those LinkedIn profiles look awesome don’t they? We all want to be recognized for our contributions and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when we are constantly focused on our own success it doesn’t leave much room for helping others.
What would it look like if we served others, wherever we are in our journey right now? What if we focused on making other people look good instead of ourselves? What if we took the opportunity of apprenticing under someone else that is farther along on the journey? What if we served someone else in that way, as our teacher? Michelangelo did it. Benjamin Franklin did it. And yes, even if you’re a CEO you can do it to.
The way Ryan Holiday puts it is not just making someone else look good, it is about providing support so that others can be good. Be a canvas that others can paint on. Clearing the way, or removing obstacles for others, will eventually create a clear path for yourself. By focusing on others, we’ll get to where want to go and we’ll get there the right way. And along the way we will have had the chance to soak up as much learning as an apprentice from the masters we study under, and there’s no better way to develop the next generation of leaders than to model what that looks like for them.
This applies to everyone regardless of where you are on the org chart; CEO, New Hire, and Entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter. From my perspective as a new entrepreneur and business owner I’m learning what LEARNING and LEADERSHIP look like in a whole new way, and it’s been one of the best things in my personal development as a leader that has ever happened. By clearing the path for the leaders I am working with, and actually doing the work of helping them get to where they want to go, I am actually making things better for them. Over time, I’ll get to where I want to go and have a huge network of support behind me. WIN-WIN.
No matter what point in your career you’re at, take the long view and craft your style, do the work that no one else wants to do, or maybe work that you don’t even need to being doing. Don’t take the credit. Support others. Be a sponge and learn as much as you can as you apprentice under a master, and then be the canvas they can paint on. If we can get past our own egos, the canvas strategy is a slam dunk. The way it shows up are almost infinite and the long-term effects are felt well beyond the time you spend serving someone else.
- Give someone else the credit for the idea you came up with.
- Share your network and create opportunities for others to partner with them.
- Offer to work on a project outside of your scope and learn something new.
- Offer to work alongside someone you’d rather not be working with and learn a new worldview.
If we can clear the path by being an anteambulo for others by removing obstacles to help them achieve their goals, we become indispensable. Through modeling what this looks like we also give someone else an opportunity to be an anteambulo for us as we create our own path.