I recently read Time Magazine's article about Nelson Mandela and his 8 Lessons of Leadership. One in particular stood out for me - Lead from the Back. In communities, this is really the only effective way to lead because participation is voluntary...if you start telling people what to do, they will simply leave. But leading from the back requires a skill set that is very different than what we often think of as leadership - i.e. strong decision-making combined with a strong personality that leads a charge and delegates tasks from the center.
Leading from the back requires the leader to be much quieter, more measured, and to a large degree introspective and patient. The one thing both types of leaderships styles require is that there is a strong vision of where one wants to end up. Leading from the front requires the leader to lay out the steps from A to Z and delegate in order to accomplish each step in the right order. Leadership from behind requires the leader to firmly understand and communicate Z (the end goal) but let the community around them figure out the interim steps to get there. This has some enormous benefits in that the community takes personal ownership and responsibility for how they get to the goal...and that makes the goal more sustainable in the end - even if the leader departs the scene. The downside of the model is that the process of getting to the goal may go through a meandering path that has a number of false starts and, because of that, will take longer. Along the way, the leader has to highlight and encourage what is working and facilitate people away from initiatives that are not productive or downright destructive to the end goal. The leader also had to encourage other leaders that operate in a similar fashion so that each initiative also has a strong vision but distributed ownership and responsibility.
For Nelson Mandela, using this approach has enabled South Africa to peacefully change an entire government and smoothly transition to leadership beyond Mandela himself. For your organization, there might not be so much riding on how you lead but if you are looking to truly build a sustainable and self-regulating organization that is not dependent on one individual (I know...not in the best interest of most highly paid CEOs...that is how they have justified their outsized pay for so long), I would argue that leading from the back is the only way to do that.
And, after all...cows can't be lead from the front without rings through their noses...why would we expect people to do their best that way either?