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resourcing leaders…reenvisioning the future

My New Book – Chapter Two, Part Two

Kevin Ford

Kevin Ford

My intent is not to introduce yet one more theory. Rather, it is to organize the theories of leadership because I believe that most of them fit into the Leadership Triangle. My hope is to introduce you to a new way of thinking about leadership by starting with the problem, not the solution.

The most significant leadership challenges are bewildering because they seem to hit us on so many fronts, demand such an array of knowledge, and possess so many moving parts. This is where the Leadership Triangle can both change our thinking and raise the watermark on our leadership capabilities. This chapter will offer an overview of the Triangle. The rest of this book will describe how you can use the Triangle to tackle even the thorniest leadership challenges:

Slide in TriangleGIF

In my years as a consultant, I have identified three primary types of leadership challenges, represented by the three sides of the Triangle. Each challenge requires a different mode of leadership behavior in response, a different “tool” if you will (remember, not every problem is a nail). The art of leadership is in knowing what sort of problem you are facing and what mode of leadership is required to tackle it. Each mode requires a different set of skills, language, questions, and styles of interaction.

First, let’s insure that we understand each kind of leadership challenge by exploring descriptorssynonyms for each side of the Triangle.

Tactical Challenges
Tactical issues can also be called “operational”, “technical”, or “fiduciary”. Tactical challenges form the daily bread of the operations-oriented manager; as a matter of fact, “management” is the art and science of mobilizing resources and personnel to deal with tactical challenges.

Tactical issues are solved by expertise. If the roof leaks, I call a roofer. If my driveway is covered with snow, I hire the neighbor’s teenage kid who has a shovel. If my hard drive crashes, I call the I.T. department or a computer geek friend. If an administrative assistant or choir director leaves, I hire a replacement admin. or musician. An astute leader faces tactical problems by identifying the right expert who offers the right solution and empowering them to solve the problem.

A whole body of leadership literature focuses on tactical problems and solutions – think Marcus Buckingham (Strengths), Peter Drucker (Management), Ken Blanchard (Situation), and John Maxwell (Principles).


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