Transforming Church Team Blog
resourcing leaders…reenvisioning the future

My New Book, Chapter Two, Part Six

Kevin Ford

The Leader And The Leadership Triangle
You have identified the nature of the leadership challenge. You know the right tool to use. Now, where do you start?

As you employ the principles of the Leadership Triangle, you’ll see that the same leader often behaves very differently depending on the nature of the problem he confronts. Glance at the chart below (which I’ve adapted from Governance as Leadership, by Richard Chait et al), which summarizes some of these differences based on whether the challenge at hand is tactical, strategic, or transformative.

When the problem is tactical, the leader’s role is that of an expert or an expert-finder. Her tone is confident – “we can apply our current base of knowledge to solve this”. The key question she raises is “What’s wrong here?” and the evident problems are to be solved. As she interacts with her people she functions as a trainer, bringing knowledge to bear. And she functions in the present tense – “how can we solve this problem right away so that our today can be better”.

When the problem is strategic, the leader’s role is that of a synthesizer, bringing together knowledge of the internal organization, the external constituency, and the broader climate. His tone is that of casting vision, introducing an inspiring picture of the future that takes advantage of and confronts the changing landscape. His key question is “what should be our focus?” and he realizes that the key way to tackle problems is through innovation and integration. His interaction with his followers is best described as inspirational and he focuses on the future tense – the imagined and aspired-to results of careful adherence to a clearly articulated strategy.

When the problem is transformational, the leader’s role is that of a facilitator, inviting dialogue and discovery, particularly in the areas of values and beliefs. The tone he strikes is one of creativity – whether in problem-solving or in conflict! He knows that the key question now is itself “What’s the question?” and that problems are not so much to be solved or planned for as much as re-framed – considered in an entirely new way. He knows that group interaction at this level of leadership needs to be free-flowing and robust – everything on the table – and that his focus is not only on the present but also on the past and the future. Transformational challenges are the very stuff of leadership and required a leader operating at full creative capacity.


One Response to “My New Book, Chapter Two, Part Six”

  1. I love this post. Very clear dividing line on the different leadership skills.

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