Leadership is like a train

22 Jul

 “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.

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Posted by on July 22, 2010 in Books, Leadership, Quotes


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