Life, Leadership and Business

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Fire Triangle in Leadership

It takes three elements to make a fire; heat, oxygen and fuel.  These three elements make up what’s known as the Fire Triangle.  It’s a common strategy to remove just one of the three elements, breaking the triangle, to extinguish a fire successfully.  The Leadership Triangle also has three elements essential to its existence; vision, a leader and a team.  Removing one of these elements would break the Leadership Triangle and extinguish any hope for success. 

Take vision out of the triangle and you have a group of people with nowhere to go, like removing the nets from a soccer pitch and telling the teams to play.  They just kick the ball around aimlessly.  Remove the team from the triangle and all you have is the captain standing on the pitch facing all the elements.  The vision will be alive in his mind, but his chances of success diminish with each tick of the clock.  Without a team, the leader becomes an ambitious person that is in pursuit of a personal dream.  This is possible and acceptable and we wish you well in your efforts for personal success.  But please, we will have to remove the band from your upper right arm.  Without the team you are no captain, you are no leader, you are just a player.              

So, what if the leader is removed from the Leadership Triangle?  In the spirit of redistribution of wealth in South Africa, the government annexed farms from existing owners to promote the development of Coalition Farming.  Four impoverished people and their families, with farming ambitions, were assigned to the farm and promised implements and resources to make the project work.  They were told that they must manage the farm together, and no one individual would be the leader.  Each one excitedly shared their hopes and aspirations for the property.  No one could agree to one unified purpose for the farm, with each of them favouring their own ideas.  Each person decided to pursue his own goal for the farm.  One bought cattle, built camps and feedlots.  One bought sheep and chickens and started to argue with the cattle owner for camp positions and the use of water and grazing.  Another one decided to farm block crops: maize, sunflower and soya beans.  This conflicted with the fourth persons wish to put up tunnels and grow vegetables.  Implements and resources were wasted, damaged and sold off, because no one was held accountable. 

Without the singleness of purpose, the four started to argue, each insisting that their vision should be implemented on the farm.  Tension grew resulting in three of the four moving off the Coalition Farm, to buy their own property, to live their own dream.  By now, all the resources were abused, broken or wasted and help promised by the government dried up as other farms were started and needed assistance.  The person left behind had no resources, no funding and decided to sit back and do nothing.  Once a productive farm, producing goods for the open market, offering employment and adding to the economy, now stands barren and unproductive.  Coalition farming fails, simply because no one wants a single appointed leader. 

Is it ridiculous?  Yes.  Can a team function with group leadership?  No.  Removing the leader, the Vision Curator, makes space for each member to insist their own vision is better, causing the original vision to fade into obscurity and the team to split. 

This piece is taken out of
Tally Ho, Teams! A new book by John Usher

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