Building Fires – What Leaders Do
Picture a roaring campfire in the wilderness with the scouts or adventurers gathered round listening to the person in charge doing what leaders do.
They build fires.
Everyone trusts that they know what they’re doing, not only because they’re in charge, but because they’ve seen them build fires before. In this moment they have proof.
We can use the analogy of the fire because it demonstrates first hand that a leader doesn’t just have the knowledge about how to do something; they’ve done it. The fire can also be used to symbolize 5 characteristics of leadership.
1. Heat and Light = Comfort and Clarity
Comfort isn’t a detached or random idea that finds itself lumped into one situation or another. Every endeavor of conscious thought has an element of comfort attached. We naturally think in terms of finding comfort and the heat from a fire in the woods at night satisfies that need.
Apart from the light of the fire we would have limited vision at night especially if trees block the starlight. The fire is both the clearly defined mission and the source for further endeavor.
Providing the focus and the vision are both necessary for true leadership. Ensuring that people are comfortably confident in what is required of them is what leaders do.
2. Wood and Flames = Goals and Results
As the wood slowly burns to glowing embers the plan to build the fire is put into action. The goal of creating flames requires more wood. As the new wood catches and starts to burn, the vision is restored along with a sense of accomplishment.
The leader would look silly dancing around a bunch of smoldering embers, but the entire company has cause for celebration when the fire is once again roaring.
The concept is simple enough, but far too often leadership fails because the celebration isn’t initiated when even the smallest goals are accomplished.
3. Rain and Wind = Difficulties and Obstacles
The obvious forces of nature can have devastating effects upon our mission to keep the campsite warm and well lit. We expect rain and wind when we’re outside. The person in charge prepares for such conditions.
Likewise in business or education by anticipating the difficulties and obstacles that get in the way of productivity and progress, we adapt and overcome. The exercise of identifying and addressing problems is what leaders do.
4. Gathering and Building = Leadership and More Leadership
When the mission is broken down into the specific actions necessary for success, we see that leadership is essential to each component.
The fire needs fuel and it isn’t usually stacked by the fire pit when we arrive in the woods. Nor do we find a fire completely assembled waiting for a match.
This example is a good one because not everyone reading this has had an opportunity to build a fire, which means they probably wouldn’t be able to identify the best hard wood to burn.
Not everyone who surfs the internet has had an opportunity to build a website.
Before anyone ever learns to build a fire, or a website, a leader has learned it first. Leadership depends upon initiative and encourages this character trait in others.
5. Talking and Listening = Sharing and Learning
Sitting around the campfire sharing ideas and telling stories predates conferences and seminars. One of the reasons scouts are taken on these types of outings is to remove kids from the normal distractions and hopefully instill something beneficial toward their character development.
Speaking and teaching is dead without listening. How many times have we heard that the only dumb question is the one you didn’t ask?
When the fires of desire are burning brightly we’re eager to discover what is hidden in the darkness. Bringing things into the light helps every mission in life. That’s what leaders do.