A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 05, 2011
Leading from Behind

"Leading from behind” can describe someone who is afraid of the action. In Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, The Gondoliers (1889), it was said of the Duke of Plaza-Toro:

“In enterprise of martial kind,
When there was any fighting,
He led his regiment from behind–
He found it less exciting.
But when away his regiment ran,
His place was in the fore, O–”


In a December 19, 1994 “Leading from Behind” column in the New York (NY) Times, Anthony Lewis used the Gilbert & Sullivan line against Bill Clinton’s presidential leadership.

Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography revealed a different idea of leading from behind. A shepherd “stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

In the May 2, 2011 edition of The New Yorker magazine, Ryan Lizza wrote about the United States involvement in the Libya conflict:

“Nonetheless, Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the president’s actions in Libya as ‘leading from behind.’”

Conservative Washington (DC) Post columnist Charles Krauthammer responding by writing, “Leading from behind is not leading. It is abdicating.”New Yorker editor David Remnick wrote that the doctrine might be better expressed as “leading from behind the scenes.” Lizza later explained, “"I never thought the phrase meant a lack of leadership. I thought it meant making things happen without your face out in front, because being out in front could scuttle your goal.”


Wikipedia: The Gondoliers
The Gondoliers; or, The King of Barataria is a Savoy Opera, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It premiered at the Savoy Theatre on 7 December 1889 and ran for a very successful 554 performances (at that time the fifth longest-running piece of musical theatre in history), closing on 30 June 1891. This was the twelfth comic opera collaboration of fourteen between Gilbert and Sullivan.
(...)
Musical numbers
Overture
Act I
1. “List and learn” (Gondoliers, Antonio, Marco, Giuseppe, and Chorus of Contadine)
2. “From the sunny Spanish shore” (Duke, Duchess, Casilda, and Luiz)
3. “In enterprise of martial kind” (Duke with Duchess, Casilda, and Luiz)

Google News Archive
30 January 1980, Calgary (Alberta) Herald, “Despite dark clouds, Carter aims to muddle through” by Bogdan Kipling, pg. A6, col. 6:
He approved, to Canada’s disappointment, the all-American Northern Tier oil pipeline.

But, he said, the final decision “will be arrived at solely by private financial markets.”

In other words, Jimmy Carter’s willing to lead from behind. He will express a preference, as with the pulling out of the Moscow Olympics, but let other people have the final say.

Google Books
Long Walk to Freedom:
The autobiography of Nelson Mandela

By Nelson Mandela
Boston, MA: Little, Brown
1994
Pg. ?:
I always remember the regent’s axiom: a leader, he said, is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.

New York (NY) Times
Abroad at Home; Leading From Behind
By ANTHONY LEWIS
Published: December 19, 1994
(...)
In short, he might have appealed to the sense of community that he extolled last Thursday. Instead, we are likely now to have a bidding war on lower taxes, with one irresponsible proposal topping another. And Bill Clinton will be like Gilbert and Sullivan’s Duke of Plaza Toro: “He led his regiment from behind / He found it less exciting.”

New York (NY) Times
The World; America, the Lone Wolf With a Following
By STEVEN ERLANGER
Published: March 01, 1998
AMERICANS watching the military and diplomatic drama in Iraq might easily wonder why Washington seems to bear every burden and get so little gratitude or support, even from the countries most threatened by Saddam Hussein.

With the sharp exception of Britain, a loyal ally that has learned the art of leading from behind, America has seemed a most unappreciated global policeman, pressing a crusade that other countries found excessive.

Google Books
27 April 2004, Congressional Record, pg. 7667, col. 3:
Nelson Mandela aptly said, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line where there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

Commentary Magazine
RE: Obama, “Leading from Behind”
John Steele Gordon | @steelegordon
04.25.2011 - 2:35 PM
When a presidential adviser is quoted in the New Yorker as using an allusion to a comic figure of fun in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta to describe Obama’s foreign policy approach, the White House must know it’s in trouble.

The first person to be described as “leading from behind,” at least as far as I know, was the Duke of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers, Gilbert and Sullivan’s last great success. The Duke explains that when he was in the army he occasionally led his regiment into action and “invariably led them out of it.”

In enterprise of martial kind,
When there was any fighting,
He led his regiment from behind–
He found it less exciting.
But when away his regiment ran,
His place was in the fore, O–
That celebrated,
Cultivated,
Underrated
Nobleman,
The Duke of Plaza-Toro!


Washington (DC) Post
The Obama doctrine: Leading from behind
By Charles Krauthammer
Published: April 28, 2011
Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the president’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.”
— Ryan Lizza, the New Yorker, May 2 issue

To be precise, leading from behind is a style, not a doctrine. Doctrines involve ideas, but since there are no discernible ones that make sense of Obama foreign policy — Lizza’s painstaking two-year chronicle shows it to be as ad hoc, erratic and confused as it appears — this will have to do.
(...)
Leading from behind is not leading. It is abdicating. It is also an oxymoron. Yet a sympathetic journalist, channeling an Obama adviser, elevates it to a doctrine. The president is no doubt flattered. The rest of us are merely stunned.

The Weekly Standard
A Leader from Behind
May 9, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 32 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Nonetheless, Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the president’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.” That’s not a slogan designed for signs at the 2012 Democratic convention, but it does accurately describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding. It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world. Pursuing our interests and spreading our ideals thus requires stealth and modesty as well as military strength. “It’s so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world,” the adviser said. “But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.”
—Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker, May 2

Thank you, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous Obama Adviser Speaking on Background to Ryan Lizza. Thank you for so boldly and visibly injecting into our politics the phrase “leading from behind.” Thank you for associating it with your boss. Thanks for confirming that our current president believes his task is to accommodate American decline. Thanks for reminding us how high a priority he places on appeasing those who revile us. And thanks for explaining that our Leader from Behind sees his role as “shepherding us through this phase” of appeasement and decline.

Huffington Post
Michael Calderone

The New Yorker Revisits ‘Leading From Behind’: Evolution Of A Blind Quote
First Posted: 8/29/11 04:05 PM ET Updated: 8/29/11 04:42 PM ET
(...)
“I never thought the phrase meant a lack of leadership,” Lizza said. “I thought it meant making things happen without your face out in front, because being out in front could scuttle your goal.” Indeed, by “leading from behind,” the Obama administration got U.N.-backing for military force to help prevent an anticipated slaughter in Benghazi, while simultaneously minimizing the perception of another U.S.-led invasion of a Muslim country.
(...)
Looking back on the phrase’s evolution, Lizza says his boss, New Yorker editor David Remnick, offers a more apt way of explaining Obama’s Middle East doctrine in this week’s issue: “leading from behind the scenes.”

Wall Street Journal
SEPTEMBER 1, 2011
Did Libya Vindicate ‘Leading From Behind’?
What Tripoli’s fall tells us about the Obama doctrine..

By MAX BOOT
After hardly mentioning Libya for months, President Obama and his aides are now taking an understandable victory lap. With Tripoli having fallen to rebel forces on Aug. 21, after six months of war, the president’s supporters are even suggesting that Operation Unified Protector, as the international intervention was formally known, offers a new model for the use of force: one where the U.S. acts at low cost to defend human rights by putting allies into the lead. An anonymous administration official dubbed this “leading from behind"—a term that has raised hackles on the right but that, some argue, has been vindicated in Libya.

In truth, it’s too soon to tell.

The New Yorker
Behind the Curtain
by David Remnick
September 5, 2011
(...)
Leading from behind. You could almost hear the speed-dials revving at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee. The phrase ricocheted from one Murdoch-owned editorial page and television studio to the next; Obama was daily pilloried as a timorous pretender who, out of a misbegotten sense of liberal guilt, unearned self-regard, and downright unpatriotic acceptance of fading national glory, had handed over the steering wheel of global leadership to the Élysée Palace.
(...)
Yet the Administration’s policies—a more apt description, admittedly, would have been “leading from behind the scenes”—were tailored to limiting circumstances.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Monday, September 05, 2011 • Permalink