Several years ago, my son attended a camp that was built around a Native American theme. At the end of each camp session, there was a final test for selected boys called the Little Chief test. This was a multi-faceted challenge including several physical and mental elements. One of the most difficult phases was the fire test. Each camper was to build a fire with a single match and keep it burning all night long. Just like Little Chiefs, I think one of the most challenging things a leader does is keep our fire burning.
As I reflect on what the Little Chiefs must do, there are at least three elements that are analogous to our efforts to keep our fire burning.
Little Chief candidates understand that it is THEIR responsibility to keep the fire burning. The expectation is clear. This is THEIR challenge – the Little Chief must do it; this task cannot be delegated. You and I must own our own growth, development and passion. If we let the fire go out, we can lose our opportunity to lead.
The boys who successfully complete the fire test have a more structured and disciplined approach than those that don’t pass. Wood is collected and arranged very carefully with kindling at the base, and often an intricate structure is built before the match is struck. I think the same is true for leaders. Many leaders who lose their passion and ultimately their influence have not been disciplined as they’ve nurtured their passion. Does your calendar reflect a disciplined approach to keeping your fire burning? If not, chances are good the pressures of life will prevail and the flames of passion in your life will be extinguished.
Finally, the fire, once lit, must be carefully tended. It is an on-going challenge. The boys work diligently through the night continuing to look for wood to stoke their fire. For us, we must be diligent in searching for the activities, events, disciplines and relationships that will keep our passion burning. How this idea plays out for individual leaders will vary. For me, the wood that fuels my fire are the leaders I hang out with, the causes I serve, the books I read and the events I attend. This combination allows me to keep my passion for serving leaders white-hot.
As a leader, our passion is contagious. If we’re not fired up about what we do, we can’t expect those we lead to be passionate either. Let’s all learn a lesson from the Little Chiefs and tend the fire within.
What is your passion? What are you doing to see that it never falters?