“Leadership is like a train.” So begins On-Track Leadership: Mastering what leaders actually do, by John Kramp. The author uses the metaphor of the various cars of a train to explain the many and varied tasks of leadership. The following chart (p. 104) illustrates his model.
The Leadership Train Model
|The Car||The Tasks||The Question|
|The Engine||Vision||“What do I see?”|
|Personal Planning||“How do I get to what I see?”|
|The Passenger Car||Enlisting||“Would you like to go there with me?”|
|Team Building||“How will we get there?”|
|The Fuel Car||Communication||“What do you see?”|
|Delegation||“What’s your responsibility?”|
|The Equipment Car||Motivation||“Why did you say ‘yes’?”|
|Correction||“Is something wrong here?”|
|The Caboose||Celebration||“Doesn’t that look great?”|
While I liked his metaphor, I can’t say that I found the book that helpful. It struck me as a very simplified version of Kouzes & Posner’s Leadership Challenge. Kramp’s book is based on the lessons he learned while trying to plant a church in Portland, OR. Kouzes & Posner’s book is based on dozens of case studies, both good and bad.
My opinion of the book was obviously slanted from the beginning because I disagreed with his definition of vision. He defines “visioning” as seeing the unseen, including needs, opportunities, and strategies. While vision certainly includes that, I believe it is much more forward looking. I prefer the definition of “seeing a preferable future.” I think Kramp’s definition tends to negate or lower leadership vision.
I think Kramp would benefit from having more and broader illustrations. Since his illustrations all come from his church-planting experience, they are of limited value to a corporate setting. You have to work harder to make them transferable. Again, I think Kouzes & Posner’s contribution is more valuable because it includes a wide range of illustrations from several different companies and organizations.
In summary, Kramp provides a good model, but it needs to be redefined and illustrated more broadly.