I don’t know much about trains, especially the fancy new ones that run off electricity and all that magical stuff. Basically, all I know about a classic train is that there is an engine, cars, and a caboose. The engine sets everything in motion. It’s got strength, power, and energy to get things moving. It connects with the cars and takes them for a ride. Without the engine, the cars and caboose are no good. They just sit there. They are powerless on their own. They need to be led by an engine.
Concerning leadership, I have noticed something that is very clear: it is the people with strength, power, and energy that are the best leaders.
They are engines.
Good leaders are strong: in their convictions and in their loyalty. Good leaders are powerful: in their tone and in their actions. Good leaders are full of energy: they outwork everyone and do so with a bounce in their step.
But we can’t forget what I think is the most important aspect of a good leader: the ability to connect. I’ve seen many strong, powerful, and energetic people who aren’t leading anyone. They are just zipping down the tracks, leaving everyone behind. We have to remember that there is no leading without connection. And an engine on it’s own can’t accomplish much of anything. We can’t just huff and puff and leave everyone in the dust. We have to reach out to the ones that we are trying to lead. We have to form a tight bond that will last the rigors of the winding tracks.
There is something else that I have noticed. Many people who would be great engines, sometimes try to lead like a caboose. I call it leading from behind.
Leading from behind is when we aren’t innovating and motivating anymore. It is when we get behind our people and try to push, instead of inspiring them from out front. It is when we are afraid of everything falling apart and we go to the back to make sure everyone stays together.
The problem with leading from behind, is that it’s not really leading at all. And while we are behind our people, pushing them and trying to make sure it all stays together, there’s no engine keeping the whole thing moving. There’s no one out in front inspiring and motivating them in the direction they are supposed to be going.
The strength, power, and energy needs to be in the front. It has to lead. Pushing and prodding and being fearful isn’t going to get you or your group anywhere. You’ve got to go full-speed ahead.
If you want to lead, you’ve got to be the engine. You’ve got to connect to people and take them for a ride.
So, like a big steam locomotive, get that fire lit on the inside of you, connect to your people, and go.
You are the engine. Not the caboose.