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Gravy Train or Train Wreck? Which Leadership Train Are You On?

Kirk Dando

July 23, 2014

"Have you ever thought that leadership is a lot like a train? Here's how I think of it: The cars sitting on the tracks are loaded with different but valuable cargo (like team members: They're all different but collectively valuable); they have a destination (the vision, measurable goals and expected time frames for arrival at the goals); and they have a route to follow (the mission and strategic plan). But they do not have a way of getting anywhere on their own. They have to hook up to the engine (the leader). Have you ever watched how a bunch of railcars (the team) form a working train? It all begins with the engine (leader). The engine switches itself to the same track as the car (team member) it's going to pick up; then it backs up to the car, makes contact and connects. Then it repeats the process until it has all the cars and starts heading toward its destination, sometimes picking up more cars along the way. Likewise, all leaders are conductors, steering their corporate 'trains' onward, upward and ever forward with knowledge, experience, confidence and enthusiasm—and, above all else, passion and a sure and steady hand. So, given that you're the conductor guiding your company around the next series of blind corners and long, stagnant stretches, exactly what kind of train are you running here?"

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