Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Leadership Lessons from Crack the Whip

Crack the Whip by Winslow Homer
(Photo: Winslow Homer on Wikipedia)
We can learn a lot about leadership from simple children's games. Crack the Whip literally shows the power of influence.

About the Game

Here is how Wikipedia explains the game:
Crack the Whip is a simple outdoor children's game that involves physical coordination, and is usually played in small groups, either on grass or ice. One player, chosen as the "head" of the whip, runs (or skates) around in random directions, with subsequent players holding on to the hand of the previous player. The entire "tail" of the whip moves in those directions, but with much more force toward the end of the tail. The longer the tail, the more the forces act on the last player, and the tighter they have to hold on.
As the game progresses, and more players fall off, some of those who were previously located near the end of the tail and have fallen off can "move up" and be in a more secure position by grabbing onto the tail as it is moving, provided they can get back on before some of the others do. There is no objective to this game other than the enjoyment of the experience.

Chicago Crack the Whip scuplture
(Photo credit: Chicago Outdoor Sculptures blog)
Leadership Lessons

Here are a few lessons that I picked up from Crack the Whip.
  • The game doesn't start until the leader acts.
  • Leaders have the ability to influence their followers in a big and powerful way with little effort.
  • A leader doesn't have much of an impact without the assistance of other players.
  • Team collaboration can affect leader's intent in a powerful way.
  • Team members have the ability to manipulate leader's intent.
  • Failures don't stop the game. When you get thrown from the whip, you can get back up and rejoin the effort.
  • Everyone is safe from harm if participants abide by the rules of respectful play.
About the Author:

Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.

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