The Engineer’s Job Was To Oversee The Fireman: Lessons From Old Steam Engine Trains

A wise engineer knows that keeping the fire going is what keeps the train moving.  He also knows that if he tries to take on two roles (fireman and engineer), both will suffer.

Either you keep the fire stoked and burning or you set direction, watch for obstacles, determine speed, communicate with the team.  You can’t really do both.

In order to become an engineer, you had to have been a fireman.  And it’s probably not always easy to change gears like that. We get comfortable, as leaders, doing what we are good at.  Probably the biggest result of the engineer, who instead of concentrating on the vision, overcoming obstacles, and communicating with the rest of the team, is working on keeping the coal burning – is an organization that is moving forward with no direction.  This will not sustain life and growth.  And at some point, in fact, it will become a hindrance.

Which role are you in?  Which one do you enjoy more?

Who are the members of your team who are keeping the fire burning?  How are you allowing them and holding them accountable to keeping the fire burning?  As a leader, are you giving them direction?  Is there clear communication about when to burn hotter to move faster and when to burn slower to take an easier pace?

How are you allowing your top team members to care for the fire in your organization?  What aspects of your work as an engineer have been rewarding?  What aspects of keeping the fire going do you miss?

Do you feel like you are able to be effective when you are delegating the fire role? Or when you are being led by the leader over you?

This is a great example of team work – each one needs the other and when they are in sync, there is tremendous power.

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