You keep refer to "leading from the front" as "stupid". Even a rudimentary knowledge of military history should tell you that many great generals "lead from the front". George Washington was notorious for being out in front of his men with bullets whizzing all around him. The relative merits of leading from the front/rear is something that has been discussed and debated in military circles for millenia, and there is not definitive answer.
Some things to understand:
- "leading from the front" does not necessarily mean literally in the front, but does, generally, mean being in or very near the thick of battle.
- battles can last for hours or days, being in the "front lines" does not mean that you are hacking at the enemy every moment. Typically, groups of men come together, hack at each other for a while, then separate, regroup, officers try to bring order, encourage the men, decide what to do next, charge another group of enemies (or brace themselves for an imminent charge). This happens over and over, becoming more chaotic as the day ensues. For a general "leading from the front", he will be surrounded by his elite unit going through this same process. During lulls in fighting, he will receive communications and send out orders by means of runners, drummers, trumpeters.
- "morale" (in simple terms the willingness of the troops to stand an fight rather than run away) is more important than both numbers and strategy, and a general who "leads from the front" imparts a *huge* amount of courage to his men -- they respect him, possibly love him, they will be ashamed to run when he is "leading the charge" so to speak. A general who "leads from the rear" sacrifices these advantages.
- Even from a hilltop or tower, a general is not really going to have a good view of what is going on -- the battlefield may be spread over a mile or more, there can be other hills, trees, buildings, dust, smoke, fog... so the "view" is not all that much of an advantage. The general in the rear will tend to have better information and be in a better position to make better tactical decisions, but this is a matter of degree -- as I note in the 2nd point above, the general in front can still stay informed and give orders.
Bottom line, there is nothing inherently "stupid" about leading from the front. Nor is there anything inherently "cowardly" about leading from the rear. A good general, first and foremost, knows himself and knows his men and makes the decision to lead from front or rear accordingly, and may even make a different decision from one battle tot he next or even through the course of a single battle.
Given Ned's "man who passes the sentence should swing the sword" philosophy, I seriously doubt that he would not lead from the front. He would not expect men to take risks that he was not willing to take. The overall attitude of the Northmen strikes me that they would not respect or follow a leader who "lead from the rear" as for them it would be a sign of weakness.