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The Four Wires of Leadership

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Fourth Wire Leadership

This type of landing of a plane on a carrier is a real “heart stopper” It’s got to work—or the pilot and crew are in trouble. This is where the analogy to leadership of a team tends to break down – and offers an alternative insight regarding this fourth style of leadership. There is minimal attention to either task or relationship in Blake and Mouton and Hershey and Blanchard’s fourth style. This means that either the team doesn’t really need a leader any more or the leader is now indifferent to the operations of this team. Like the first wire leadership, wire four leadership often produces crisis – and requires crisis management. But this crisis is distinct—it is about indifference not control.

The fourth wire leader only directs much attention to his team when there is a big problem. These wire four leaders become “heroes” who come in at the last minute to “save the day.” They offer temporary fixes to the problem being faced and they focus on identifying those “guilty” of getting to this point. The guilty party can be the team (pilot), the broader organization (the ground crew), or (3) the “fates” (weather, military budget, pentagon ineptitude).

Coaching the Four Wires

When providing coaching services to the leader of an organization it can be quite useful to keep this four wire analogy in mind. We need to not just help our leader focus on their own role as leader (serving as the arrestor wire), but also help their focus on the functioning and dynamics of their team (the incoming plane) and the broader structure and support of their organization (the carrier and its crew). It is also important to assist our coaching client in determining when their primary role is serving to stop or at least slow down or redirect the “flight” of their team, but also serve as the launching apparatus – serving as a motivator, initiator and champion. In many instances, our leader is also on the plane with their team – rolling up their own sleeves to make the flight successful.

Perhaps of greatest importance in the use of this wire analogy is the distinction to be drawn between the crisis created by pulling the team short too soon (first wire leadership) and waiting too long to exert appropriate authority and control (fourth wire leadership).  Both styles of leadership can lead to crisis—but the crises need to be managed in different ways. The failure of first wire leadership concerns too great a span of authority and control for the leader—and too often an unpredictable or ill-timed exercise of this authority and control. Conversely, the fourth wire style of leadership often leads to either a very narrow span of authority and control (assigned by others in the organization or self-assigned by the wire four leader).

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